The recent DOJ report focused on Ferguson, but Ferguson isn't the only city using its municipal court as a source of revenue. Many municipal courts in the St. Louis area have a history of unfairly targeting minority and poor people, who often don't have the resources or knowledge to defend themselves properly.
I created this site partially because I was inspired by the peaceful Ferguson protesters. Ferguson received worldwide attention because people chose to rise up and act rather than continue accepting horrible treatment by the police.
The Ferguson DOJ report mentioned a woman forced to spend six days in jail, who accumulated over $1,000 liability because of two parking tickets. Municipal courts make their money by convincing people to give up without a fight. Because only a few people fight back the city will continue questionable practices and enforcing unfair or illegal laws because it's profitable. The more people fight back the less profitable it becomes.
The Ferguson Protesters have had an effect on the future of police all over the country. There have been times when I have not always agreed with the methods, but I am impressed by the effort and the commitment those actively involved have shown. The Darren Willson grand jury decision was not credible and supports the protesters suspensions of an unfair process.
The Ferguson protesters have brought worldwide attention to the major racial disparity and injustice that exist in the St. Louis area, including the municipal court system. Many of the issues presented in this forum are intended to provide answers and hopefully solutions to those unfairly targeted by a municipal court system to fleece vulnerable citizens under the "Color of Law". The article, “In Ferguson, Court Fines And Fees Fuel Anger” points out that many of the municipal courts in St. Louis County engage in the "illegal and harmful practice" of charging high court fines and fees on nonviolent offenses like traffic violations — and then arresting people when they don't pay. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Justice Department's Ferguson Investigation report reveals what the Ferguson Protesters have been claiming
People are always most concerned with their own community, charity starts at home. However, when black people discuss racial issues that have a negative impact on their lives; people who are not forced to live with the stigma, unfair treatment, brutality or general injustice of racism, somehow believe the race card is being played. You can only play a card that has been dealt to you, even when dealt a bad hand.
I have two wonderful sons; my oldest is twenty-one and a minister in training and has never been in trouble. My youngest son is fifteen gets good grades, picks good friends and also stays out of trouble. Strangers have often commented to me about how great they think my kids are. Mike Brown could have been either of my sons. As wonderful as they are, I know they would be vilified if anything were to happen, especially if police are directly responsible.
Many people have tried to minimize the fact that there are systemic issues regarding police brutality. Some have attempted to deflect attention away from this important issue by suggesting that attention should be directed towards "black on black murders". That type of flawed reasoning would be paramount to arguing since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, medical researchers shouldn't worry too much about Influenza and Pneumonia, which combined only kills one-tenth the number of people. Simply because the Ferguson protesters received more media attention, were possibly better funded and used greater creativity in getting their message out, doesn't indicate that no one is concerned about the murder rate. Many organizations, churches and members of our community are concerned and have been actively trying to curb violence in our community for decades.
When I was in high school during the 1980's the murder rate was much worst than it is now and peaked during the 1990's, see: Understanding St. Louis: Homicide and Index Crime Totals and Rates 1943-2012. I remember watching the murder countdown that the nightly news was doing. At that time, we did not know that our government allowed the Contras to funnel drugs in black communities to help fund a war. While Nancy Reagan was promoting the slogan "Just Say No", her husband, President Ronald Reagan had secretly authorized a CIA scheme that resulting in cocaine flooding into black and brown communities.
The Washington Post article, "Why government policy — not personal prejudice — is to blame for Ferguson", further discusses how government policy helped created current conditions and stated the following:
"The government created segregated public housing projects, as policy. It subsidized the development of suburban communities on the condition that they exclude black residents. It barred blacks from receiving government-backed mortgages, enforced neighborhood covenants barring black homeowners, and advised against integrating neighborhoods lest white property values fall. And it tacitly supported industry practices where real estate agents risking losing their licenses for selling homes to black families in white neighborhoods.
Local zoning regulations, meanwhile, hemmed in black communities with the industrial development no one wanted. It permitted liquor stores, bars and polluting businesses in black neighborhoods but not white ones. Then when all these unwanted neighbors devalued the property of the blacks who lived in these communities, they were systematically denied mortgage insurance. Local governments, on top of this, increasingly ignored these communities with trash collection, street maintenance and policing, devaluing them even more.
Whites who saw the end result no doubt concluded that black neighborhoods became slums — not that government neglect and official discrimination forced slum-like conditions on blacks."