Erby urges fellow County Council members to take a stand on Ferguson events

Fellow council members have shown little regard for events since August, she says

By Gloria Lloyd

County Council Chairwoman Hazel Erby is challenging her fellow council members to take a stand on the events in Ferguson, which is in her district — and which she says fellow council members have shown little regard for considering all that has happened there since August.

“I agree with the speakers that as a body here, for us to go through our daily routine and not say anything after what has happened in St. Louis County is not doing our job,” she said Tuesday night, in the only extended comments any council member has given on Ferguson at any council meeting since August. “We do need to take a stand, or at least make a statement.”

Sixth District Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton — who is set to take over as county executive next month — once tried to make a statement of reconciliation on Ferguson, but was interrupted by the chants of hundreds of protesters to “Arrest Darren Wilson.” Wilson is the former Ferguson police officer who shot Michael Brown, 18, in August, leading to weeks of civil unrest and months of protest that culminated after the decision of a county grand jury last week not to indict Wilson on any charges in the killing.

Since Stenger is soon taking over the county’s top job from County Executive Charlie Dooley, Erby, D-University City, said he would be the natural person to take the lead on the council’s collective response to Ferguson, and she hopes he will do so. Erby is Dooley’s only ally on the council and has been at odds with the rest of the Stenger-allied council for most of this year.

Part of the reason Erby said she had not made a lengthy statement at a council meeting, despite being implored to do so by many speakers since August, was because she knew she would get very emotional delivering any message about Ferguson.

“The tears are right here,” she said after the meeting. “A lot of us hurting, and we don’t understand the reasons why all this happened (to Ferguson).”

Although Erby said she has not yet personally reached out to her fellow council members to try to coordinate a response to Ferguson, after dozens of businesses burned to the ground in last week’s rioting, she felt she could no longer remain silent — and she doesn’t think the rest of the council should, either.

“Last week, I hurt at what I saw happening to my community,” she added. “I saw the fires on TV, and I kept thinking, where is the National Guard? There was no one there, not a fireman, not the National Guard, not anything. I asked on Facebook, where is the National Guard? And I was told the National Guard was in Clayton, at the Galleria, at Plaza Frontenac. As far as I’m concerned, I do plan to make my feelings known to the governor, to the council, or to whoever will listen.”

The council chairwoman also said she did not understand the grand-jury decision announced by county Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch or why it was delivered at night.

“I don’t understand the timing of the announcement,” she said. “And why was our prosecuting attorney acting like a defense attorney?”