From Ferguson to Syria: Though separated by more than 6,000 miles, these places were the setting for events that many St. Louisans recalled as they reflected on the news of 2015.
Ferguson, a mid-size city in north St. Louis County, was the first thought of many people who responded to a call for suggestions put out by St. Louis Public Radio’s Public Insight Network. A year and a half since the shooting death of a young man named Michael Brown by a police officer named Darren Wilson, many area residents consider that case, and its aftermath, the top news story of the year.
While some said, simply, “Ferguson,” others sited variations on that theme: The Ferguson Commission Report, the aftermath of Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, justice system reform and, tangentially, the University of Missouri system president’s resignation and the Concerned Student 150 activism.
It's the latter and the student protests at the MU campus this fall that Lou Malnassy of Kirkwood holds as an important connection to the Ferguson-Black Lives Matter movement.
“The turmoil at Mizzou shows the issue of race relations is far more complicated than just cops vs. poor blacks,” Malnassy said.
A Mizzou alumni himself, Malnassy, 63, said that previously, he had an expectation that black and white college students today would recognize that they have much in common with each other and fewer reasons for race-based troubles. Instead, he said, the protests brought light to deep-seated problems on the Missouri campus, and schools nationally, that reflect race relations on a broader scale.
After watching protests and other events on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus, which culminated with the resignation of University System President Tim Wolfe, Malnassy said: “It’s obvious that black-white clashes don’t depend on socio-economic status or a white-power structure.”
As another by-product of the Ferguson protests, Jake Gray of Kirkwood, said municipal court reform topped his news-of-the year list.
“The national attention that we got brought to light the need for reform in the courts and how we’ve used fines to fund police departments,” Gray, 33, said. “It was good to see the legislative changes pass so quickly.”
Others shared similar sentiments or added other topics:
Evren Senol, 51, Town and Country — “The human suffering and refugee crisis in Syria, followed by the death squads of ISIL. It is frustrating to see how the American people are so against settlement of refugees here in the USA. How they cannot comprehend that ISIL does not represent Islam or any other sane belief.”
Amy Hunter, 45, University City — “Ferguson and the aftermath; race and education.”
Colleen Starkloff, 66, St. Louis — “The 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act matters to me because the ADA has made tremendous, sweeping changes in America and has influenced countries around the world with respect to recognizing that people with disabilities actually have rights and those rights also require significant changes in the built environment so that disabled people can access their rights. And I think it's very wonderful that my daughter, Meaghan Starkloff Breitenstein and I were chosen to honor Max J. Starkloff, a major disability rights leader and leading St. Louisan, on StoryCorps in January 2015 . It matters to me because Max's work has truly changed not only how our society responds to disabled people, but also the expectations that people with disability can have regarding their lives and opportunities to live full productive lives and contribute to their communities.”
Annemarie Nauert, 27, St. Louis — “The anniversary of the Michael Brown shooting; University of Missouri system president stepping down and Concerned Student 1950 activism.”
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This report contains information gathered with the help of our Public Insight Network. To learn more about the Network and how you can become a source, please click here.