On November 24, 2014, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch announced that there would be no criminal charges brought against Darren Wilson, the White former police officer who shot and killed unarmed Black 18-year-old Michael Brown. Yesterday (August 7), the good people of St. Louis County voted the prosecutor out of the office he was first elected to in 1991.
Progressive Ferguson City Council member Wesley Bell won 56.6 percent of the votes. He is the first person to run against McCulloch since the verdict, and as he does not face a challenger in the general election, he will be the new prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County. He ran on a platform that vowed to end mass incarceration, reform the cash bail system, reserve resources for serious crime, engage the community, end the death penalty and “resist the Trump administration.”
“People say, ‘Well you shocked the world.’ No. We shocked the world,” Bell told supporters last night, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I don’t believe in campaign promises. I believe in promises. So when we say we are going to expand diversionary programs, it’s going to happen. When we say we are going to reform the cash bail program, it’s going to happen.”
Of the 2,437 elected prosecutors serving in jurisdictions around the country last summer when the survey was conducted, just 4 percent are men of color, only 1 percent are women of color, and White men account for fully 79 percent (while only accounting for 31 percent of the total population). And 60 percent of states have zero Black elected prosecutors. The only state where White men make up less than half of the prosecutors is New Mexico.
Whether they are called district attorneys or states attorneys general, elected prosecutors are the ones who decide when to pursue criminal charges, which charges to file, and if they will carry prison time.
Residents, organizers, activists and journalists alike rejoiced online following Bell’s win. Here’s why they are shouting #ByeBob:
Four years ago tomorrow, police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown in #Ferguson. Longtime county prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch would refuse to bring charges in the case.@Bell4STL just shocked the world and defeated him: https://t.co/wDbptajm2B pic.twitter.com/hScutsQNGI— Working Families Party (@WorkingFamilies) August 8, 2018
Incumbent St. Louis county prosecutor Bob McCulloch — a powerful Democrat known nationally for his handling of the 2014 grand jury decision to not prosecute Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Mike Brown -defeated by Wesley Bell, a black city council member from Ferguson https://t.co/rEVDr5fJv6— Wesley (@WesleyLowery) August 8, 2018
Thinking about the way Bob McCulloch smirked as he announced the grand jury had returned a no bill. Let me tell all of y’all something: its only just started.— josie duffy rice (@jduffyrice) August 8, 2018
We just voted out the DA who let Mike Brown’s killer walk free. He was a SEVEN term incumbment. Congrats @Bell4STL. Thank you to COC members and volunteers who sent texts, knocked on doors, made phone calls. Together, we reached more than 210K Black voters in St Louis County— Rashad Robinson (@rashadrobinson) August 8, 2018
I think we have just witnessed the biggest criminal justice victory in years!!! Wesley Bell is the new St. Louis County Prosecutor and has ousted one of the most problematic prosecutors in America. So proud of you @Bell4STL. Grateful to every volunteer & donor. pic.twitter.com/481lLdSqDY— Shaun King (@shaunking) August 8, 2018
Transformative result in St. Louis: Wesley Bell ran on eliminating cash bell, never seeking death penalty, supporting safe injection sites, transferring police misconduct investigations to an independent prosecutor, & more. (He faces no Republican in Nov.) https://t.co/SeOVHVXeCI pic.twitter.com/MqJ8eCBo90— Taniel (@Taniel) August 8, 2018
I am so overwhelmed and in tears — thanking all the ancestors for seeing Wesley Bell to victory. My home state of Missouri has immense issues, and the state of affairs in (KC’s sister city of) St. Louis was painful to watch. But today… today there’s some hope.— sai is so tired these days (@saibellanyc) August 8, 2018