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Attorney General's Talk Doesn't Satisfy Those Troubled By Ferguson

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We are reporting this morning on President Obama's ideas for improving race relations in law enforcement after protests in Ferguson, Missouri. The president spent much of yesterday at the White House talking of that subject. And then he sent Attorney General Eric Holder to Atlanta to continue the conversation. From our member station WABE, Michell Eloy reports.

CHOIR: (Singing).

MICHELL ELOY, BYLINE: The setting was steeped in symbolism. In a packed interfaith prayer service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther King Jr.'s former congregation, Holder said Dr. King's dream has not yet been fulfilled.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: As we recommit ourselves to the cause with which he entrusted us, it's apparent that our nation's journey is not yet over.

ELOY: Prior to the prayer service, Holder met with local law enforcement, civil rights leaders, students and government officials. The topic of discussion? Improving relations between police and the community. But after brief opening remarks, the meeting was closed to the public and media. Taliba Obuya was at the prayer service but not the meeting. She criticized the decision to close it.

TALIBA OBUYA: He has to be able to listen and hear what we say so that we can come to a compromise, not simply be talked to and sit and wait as we do. And we're saying, no, we need this now.

ELOY: Rev. Gregory Williams was also at the prayer service.

REVEREND GREGORY WILLIAMS: It sounded good. It was what I wanted to hear. But at the same time, I want to see some results.

ELOY: Williams was skeptical that any policing reforms will come about and even more so of Holder's Atlanta visit.

WILLIAMS: I'm not excited. Like these kids out here, they say it's a distraction, and it can be. And I'm challenged by it because the real work is going to happen when these lights go off and the microphones go off, and people like myself are going to be on these streets when nobody's here, you know, saying a speech.

ELOY: The Justice Department is still investigating possible charges against the Ferguson Police Department and Darren Wilson, the officer who fatally shot Michael Brown. For NPR News, I'm Michell Eloy in Atlanta. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.