The meetings come as the president convenes a series of sessions with cabinet members, elected officials, and civil rights activists one week after a grand jury decided against charging Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer, with a crime for the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. And they take place as the Ferguson Commission – a body convened by Gov. Jay Nixon to probe systemic issues fueling the racial tension surrounding the shooting – meets for the first time later Monday in Missouri.
Monday will mark the second time that Ferguson activists have met with administration officials at the White House. In September, two protesters, a clergy member, and two local residents traveled to Washington to speak with White House aides.
Obama addressed the nation moments after the grand jury decision was announced last week, urging peace but also calling for a larger conversation about challenges often faced by communities of color when dealing with law enforcement.
Massive marches and protests are planned throughout Washington Monday, and activists in St. Louis have planned a protest at the Department of Justice building there.
Protest leaders have said they plan to push for legislation to require all officers to wear body cameras, as well as measures that would require all departments to report details of any officer-related shootings and that would make police personnel files public records, though they remain skeptical that these reforms will be enacted.
News of Monday's White House meetings drew mixed reaction from activists in Ferguson, many of whom had initially hoped for a visit from President Obama himself in the early days following the shooting. Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to the town instead.
Many of these activists had interpreted Holder's early comments about ensuring justice to mean that the Justice Department would bring civil rights charges against Wilson. A series of media reports has since revealed that civil rights charges against Wilson are viewed as highly unlikely.
“Where has [President Obama] been all of these months?" said one Ferguson activist Monday. "And now he wants to have a meeting? Please.”
Some of those who had attended the September meeting with the White House also remained skeptical of whether more meetings would yield real results.
“They told us they wanted to know how they could help,” said one attendee. “But after that they did nothing. They sent one email.”