Republicans are lashing out at activists in Ferguson, Missouri, who are using the protests over the death of Michael Brown -- an unarmed black teenager who was fatally shot by a police officer on Aug. 9 -- as an opportunity to promote civic engagement and mitigate the city's history of low voter turnout and racial disparities in political representation.
Activists set up voter registration tables near a makeshift memorial for Brown and the QuikTrip convenience store that has become a gathering base for protesters. The efforts were organized by local clergy with the help of the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.
Missouri Republican Party executive director Matt Wills called the actions "disgusting" and told Breitbart News the activists are "fanning the political flames."
"Injecting race into this conversation and into this tragedy, not only is not helpful, but it doesn’t help a continued conversation of justice and peace," Willis told Breitbart News.
Political representation in Ferguson has long been divided along racial lines, and the city has a troubled racial history. Two-thirds of the residents are black, but its mayor and five of its six city council members are white. In addition, only three of Ferguson's 53 police officers are black.
One reason the city's government poorly reflects the demographic makeup could be low voter turnout. Only 12.3 percent of people voted in this year's municipal elections. Turnout was even lower in 2013 and 2012, with 11.7 percent and 8.9 percent voting, respectively. On Sunday, Sharpton decried the dismal turnout in an address at a local church.
"You all have got to start voting and showing up. Twelve percent turnout is an insult to your children," he said.
Local resident Debra Reed, who set up a voter registration tent near the memorial, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch they are "trying to make young people understand that this is how to change things."
Not all Republicans are joining the state GOP director in his opposition to the voter registration efforts -- some are actually denouncing Wills' views. GOP State Sen. Ryan Silvey tweeted that "the 'outrage' over voter registration in Ferguson is dumb. I'd rather they vote than riot."
I have NO problem w/ protestors, or ANYONE, getting registered to vote. How do we keep our gov't accountable if not by ballot? #Ferguson
— Ryan Silvey (@RyanSilvey) August 19, 2014
08/26/2014 7:49 AM EDT
The Toll On Michael Brown's Family
USA Today's Yamiche Alcindor provides an intimate look at how Michael Brown's parents have been dealing with the loss of their son:
Phones constantly ring with reporters asking for interviews or family members offering support. Last week, as demands reached a tipping point, both parents moved into hotels to shield themselves.
In the days leading up to the funeral, Brown's mother continued to cry and spoke in whispers as she tried to explain her feelings.
"They say tomorrow is going to be the hardest day, but I think today was — just seeing my baby laying there, cold," Lesley McSpadden, 34, told USA TODAY. "It did something to my heart. It's too much. It's too much."
08/26/2014 7:44 AM EDT
New Audio Allegedly Captures Moment Michael Brown Was Shot
New audio has surfaced that allegedly captures the moment when Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot dead by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, on Aug. 9.
CNN aired the unverified recording on Monday night. Six shots can be heard, followed by a pause, then several more. A private autopsy performed on Aug. 17 at the request of Brown's family found that the 18-year-old was shot 6 times, including twice in the head.
08/25/2014 12:58 PM EDT
Al Sharpton: America, It's Time To Deal With Policing
08/25/2014 12:53 PM EDT
Al Sharpton: All Of Us Are Required To Respond
Rev. Al Sharpton: All of us are required to respond to this #MikeBrownfuneral— HuffPost BlackVoices (@blackvoices) August 25, 2014
08/25/2014 12:48 PM EDT
Benjamin Crump: We Will Not Accept Three-Fifths Justice For Michael Brown
08/25/2014 12:28 PM EDT
Funeral Program Includes Tribute From Michael Brown's Parents
USA Today reporter, Yamiche Alcindor shares photo of program which includes tributes to Michael Brown from his mother and father
08/25/2014 12:22 PM EDT
Michael Brown's Stepmother: He Prophesied His Own Death
Stepmother of #MichaelBrown said the late teen "pretty much prophesied his own death and didn't realize it."— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) August 25, 2014