Six years later, the city has elected Ella Jones to be the city’s first African American and first woman mayor.
Jones defeated her opponent, Heather Robinett, with 54 percent of the vote, and solidified a message of hope. Yet, instead of streets lined with parades and celebration over this victory, the boulevards of Ferguson were once again filled with protest over a white officer killing a Black man. This time, the city of Ferguson mourns for George Floyd.
With the death of Floyd weighing heavily on the hearts and minds of many Americans, Jones acknowledged these frustrations, while promising change.
“My election gives people hope,” Jones said in an interview Wednesday. “Everybody is looking for a change, everybody wants to have a better way of life. You don’t want to go four blocks and worry about getting shot, nobody wants that. It is starting to get better. We are making changes.”
“I have been living in injustice all my life,” she added. “I didn’t just get exposed to it because I became a City Council member.”
In 2015, Jones became the first Black woman elected to the City Council, and though she was vocal when it came to inadequacies in the city’s law enforcement, she did not have enthusiastic backing from protesters at the time.
While campaigning, both Jones and her opponent Robinett promised to continue changes brought on after the 2014 Brown shooting—like a federal consent decree, “a legally binding agreement requiring reforms to a police department.” (Ferguson is one of the smallest cities in the country with such a law.)
In the wake of the most recent tragedies, the city saw an uproar of unrest, likely bubbling under the surface much longer than the public has been willing to recognize. Jones’s election cannot and will not be the action needed to bring about change in the magnitude desired—but it is a monumental step taken at a time when everyone is watching.
“If you’ve been oppressed so long, it’s hard for you to break out to a new idea,” Jones said, “And when you’ve been governed by fear and people telling you that the city is going to decline because an African American person is going to be in charge, then you tend to listen to the rhetoric and don’t open your mind to new possibilities.”