The Justice Department closed a series of town hall meetings in Ferguson, Missouri, to the media, saying the presence of reporters would be disruptive, a spokesman for the city said Monday. A five-week series of meetings, the first of which was Monday, was organized to resolve racial tensions that erupted in the wake of the fatal police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.
The Justice Department's Community Relations Service Friday ordered the meetings, which are to update residents “on changes the council wants the community to consider,” closed to the media and non-residents. Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said the meetings were intended to let residents “know exactly where we stand on things with full transparency.”
“The idea about no media came from the Department of Justice -- not the city,” Devin James, a spokesman for the city, told MSNBC Monday. “I could be wrong, but it is my understanding that they believe that the presence of media hinders and disrupts the conversation so that it is no longer productive and does not fulfill the purpose for which it was intended.”
The Community Relations Service was dispatched to Ferguson in the days after the Brown shooting by Attorney General Eric Holder to help resolve some of the racial tensions that had plagued the city, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.