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Department Of Justice Representatives Stress Communication At Friday Night Meeting

Department of Justice official Rita Valenciano speaks to people assembled at St. Paul A.M.E. Church in St. Louis.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Two representatives of the Community Relations Service of the Department of Justice, Eric Dean and Rita Valenciano, stressed they were reporting the needs of the St. Louis community to their superiors.  Although the goal of the evening was set as a time for community members to ask questions of the two representatives, little insight emerged as to their roll. Valenciano stressed she was in Ferguson Aug. 10 and immediately began working with community groups to facilitate dialogue with law enforcement and government agencies.

Approximately 80 people met at St. Pual A.M.E. Church with the Justice Department officials.

”I feel in talking with people, the pain. I feel the anger. I feel the frustration; and I feel the need to be of service. And because of my job and with Eric because of his job we have to be neutral and we have to be impartial,” Valenciano said. “As a human being though, we all are angry, and we all are frustrated on one side or the other.”

But many questions went unanswered.

The representatives were unable to provide details regarding discussions between community representatives and government agencies such as the Department of Justice and FBI due to confidentiality agreements included in their mitigation work. That work is to ensure that all parties have a way to communicate.

The DOJ representatives reiterated that confidentiality was a part of their practice. They were also unable to answer questions about any investigation of Officer Darren Wilson, stating that was not part of their department in the DOJ. Valenciano did stress that they attempted to speak with the Brown family early on and communicated with the family as early as Aug. 10.

The meeting also served as platform to discuss the importance of voting in affecting change.

“Communities change because of the vote,” said Northwoods Alderman Errol Bush.

Former University City Councilman Byron Price agreed. “If you don’t vote, you don’t have a voice,” he said, addressing the crowd.

NAACP Representative Adolphus Pruitt stressed the importance of voting as well, but referenced unspecified issues in another police district in St. Louis. “The color of your elected officials, doesn’t mean you get what you want,” said Pruitt.

Valencio and Dean assured questioners they were indeed relaying the community’s concerns to their superiors with the intention of mitigating a solution to community members' outrage.