Near-brawl breaks out at city council meeting to heal wounds between police and public after Ferguson unrest

Dylan Stableford

A city council meeting in St. Louis turned ugly on Wednesday when the business manager of the city's police union got into an altercation with people he called "anti-police radicals."

The board meeting was hosted to get public input on a proposed bill, sponsored by Alderman Antonio French, which would establish a civilian oversight board to review and rule on complaints about police work. The bill was prompted by racially charged protests that erupted in Ferguson last year following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, a black teenager, by white officer Darren Wilson.

But about an hour into the hearing, Jeff Roorda, a state representative who also serves as the business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, stood up and called for order.

Alderman Terry Kennedy, the committee's chairman, responded, "Excuse me, first of all, you do not tell me my function."

Things quickly unraveled, and Roorda, who was wearing an armband that read "I am Darren Wilson," engaged in a scuffle with several attendees.

"About 30 or 40 anti-police radicals (were) fomenting violence against the police," Roorda told KMOV-TV. "I tried to approach the podium and the anti-police radicals started pushing and shoving the police officers and myself."

Bishop Derrick Robinson, a Ferguson preacher and protest organizer who was at the meeting, says Roorda scuffled with a woman in the crowd and triggered the melee.

"We went to protect her and the police tried to protect him," Robinson said. "It was an all-out shoving match, with some punches being thrown, too."

The meeting was adjourned. No arrests or injuries were reported.

"We saw once again tonight how fractured our city remains," French wrote on Twitter. "We have a lot of work to do."

More than two months after a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson in Brown's killing, tensions between police and residents of Ferguson remain high. Last week, St. Louis County police released surveillance video that they say shows more than 180 people suspected of looting a store in nearby Dellwood, Mo., on Nov. 24, 2014, shortly after the grand jury’s decision was announced.

"If you can identify any of these suspects, please contact the St. Louis County Police," a message on the police department's website read. "All tips are anonymous."

Roorda has been a vocal supporter of Wilson.

"He's just a cop who was responding to a call," Roorda told Fox News after the grand jury's decision. "He observed a crime in progress ... and the rest, I guess, is history."

"If we spend this time in the wake of Michael Brown's killing trying to change law enforcement to fix this problem, it's going to be a betrayal to his legacy," Roorda told CBS News in December. "That's not why Michael Brown ended up on that street confronting a police officer. It's decades of racial disparity and economic disparity. It's not a problem with police."

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