Audible groans murmured through the West Side Missionary Baptist Church in north St. Louis County when county prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced, via livestream, that no charges would be filed against Officer Darren Wilson.
Church leaders switched off the projector and the Rev. Starsky Wilson stood to give a sermon, calling for dissent.
“The question is whether our faith will produce anything as an alternative witness to the system that has both broken, busted and disgusted,” Wilson said.
Wilson called on the congregation to mobilize against racial disparities in the justice system, pointing to the problems with the region's municipal courts, traffic stops and policing practices in predominantly African-American neighborhoods.
“I cannot conform and I’m not going to adjust myself to fit into the box of a system that is killing,” said Wilson, who is also co-chair of the Ferguson Commission.
Nadia Brown, a visiting political science professor, said the grand jury decision confirmed what she had expected.
“I’m frustrated, I’m disappointed. I think we have to think about where our next steps are and how do we achieve justice,” Brown said. “I think there are real questions we have to ask about what does the future hold for us.”
Brown said she and others planned to go to protests in Shaw after the gathering. So did Pastor Brian Snypes, who lives in Ferguson with three young daughters and a teenage son.
“I have to comfort them at night. When it started back in August, would talk to them about helicopters flying around in the air. I was really hoping we would put an end to that tonight,” Snypes said.
He said the past months have been difficult for his family. They live only a few blocks from West Florissant Avenue. Although he hasn’t spent much time protesting before, Snypes said the grand jury decision Monday made him resolve to take a more active role.
“In the past I’d decided not to get in the streets. But there’s got to be a change,” Snypes said. “I think I’m going to do that. I’m going to put on something warm and hit the streets tonight.”