Efforts to recall the mayor of Ferguson, Missouri – who was at the helm of the St. Louis suburb during the height of public outrage and unrest over the death of unarmed teen Michael Brown last summer – failed a crucial hurdle this week needed to shake up leadership.
A petition to formally recall Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III failed to garner the number of signatures needed to jumpstart the process of removing him from power, the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners announced Tuesday.
“We understand the rights of the petitioners and their recall efforts,” Knowles said in a statement. “But for as long as I am mayor, I will continue to work with the council and staff to bring together the citizens of Ferguson, and to move our community forward with the many reforms and initiatives that we have been working on for several months.”
According to local affiliate KSDK, a group known as Ground Level Support said they delivered the petition with more than 400 additional signatures than the 1,800 required for a recall. The elections board did not immediately disclose how many of those signatures have been invalidated since the petition was filed on May 28. The group now must disclose whether it intends on amending its petition, which would give it an additional ten days to gather more signatures.
Knowles has been under fire in the aftermath of the shooting death of Brown, 18, who was killed by a Ferguson police officer last August. The events triggered rounds of violent unrest and nationwide protests calling into question policing practices across the country and how they disproportionately affect communities of color.
The mayor was widely criticized for initially saying “there’s not a racial divide in the City of Ferguson,” in the aftermath of clashes between citizens and police following Brown’s death in August. Knowles later walked back his remarks.
Other Ferguson leaders – including the city manager and police chief – have stepped down following a scathing report released by the Department of Justice in March that unearthed policies fueling systemic constitutional and civil rights violations in the city. Knowles has since resisted pressure to resign. His term formally ends in 2016.