Two weeks after Stockley verdict, St. Louis activists release demands
State Rep. Bruce Franks speaks to reporters outside city hall in St. Louis on Friday, Sept. 29, accompanied by protesters. | Laurie Skrivan / St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

ST. LOUIS—Amid protests and public outcry, St. Louis City Mayor Lyda Krewson postponed five scheduled public town hall meetings. Her office anticipated disruption and tension regarding unanswered questions in the acquittal of ex-cop Jason Stockley, charged with first degree murder in the 2011 killing of 24-year-old African American, Anthony Lamar Smith.

Responding to Krewson’s public “disappearance,” frontline activists organized a “People’s Town Hall” Thursday, September 28.

Over 200 community members and activists filled the pews of Christ Church Cathedral Thursday evening in downtown St. Louis to hear from a panel of elected officials.

Drawing attention to Krewson’s absence was an empty chair at the front of the room. “We’re beyond disappointed that the mayor chose to cancel opportunities for people’s voices to be heard,” said activist Kayla Reed. “That’s why organizations such as St. Louis Action Council, ArchCity Defenders, and Organization for Black Struggle came together to hold the People’s Town Hall.”

The town hall panelists included Missouri State Rep. Bruce Franks, Jr., 5th Ward Committeeman Rasheen Aldridge, 15th Ward Alderperson Megan Green, and Tishuara Jones, former St. Louis City mayoral candidate and current city treasurer.

Panelists gave presentations on police statistics and lessons from Ferguson before moving to a question-and-answer session.

When asked about the effectiveness of recent protests, Franks, Jr., said: “The objective of the protests is to disrupt and to affect the economy; the protests have put a nearly $11 million dent in the economy, including the cancellation of a U2 concert…that sounds effective to me.”

As the two-hour town hall ended, organizers presented a list of the “People’s Demands,” which included:

—An audit of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department

—The removal of Acting Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole

—The removal of Judge Timothy Wilson

—Stricter “use of force” policies for police

—Public engagement in the search for a new police chief

—That all charges against protestors be dropped

—That any arrested protestor be released on their own recognizance

—The abolition of cash-only bail

—The removal of the Missouri Highway Patrol from the city

—The resignation of Mayor Lyda Krewson

—And, “as always,” that Jeff Roorda, Business Manager of the police officers                                   association, be fired.

“But there is really only one demand,” Reed said. “Stop killing us.”

Protests are just getting started

The next morning, around 50 activists, organizers, and community allies gathered outside the steps of St. Louis City Hall for a morning press conference. Their message was clear: protests against the acquittal of ex-cop Jason Stockley are just getting started, not winding down.

“We told you what it was gonna be,” said Tory Russel, a conference organizer. “I don’t know why city officials thought that we was gonna go away a couple of days, that it wasn’t gonna look like Ferguson, that we was gonna sell out, quit, or get tired.”

Missouri State Rep. Bruce Franks, Jr., a panelist at the previous day’s town hall, did not endorse the list of demands presented and does not see it as the most pressing issue.

“At the end of the day, we can throw out a million demands, we can throw out legislation,” Franks said. “One thing we gotta realize is that there is no legislation or list of demands that we could put forward to get you to understand that y’all gonna stop killing us. That’s why we’re out here in the streets.”

Franks reinforced activists’ commitment to continue demonstrations until “major change” comes to the city.

“We protested in Ferguson for 400 days straight,” Franks said. “So you take those same folks that were on the front line, those same folks that were pepper-sprayed and tear-gassed together, and you put them together… Not only do we expand, we empower, we educate, so now those 400 days can turn into 800 days, can turn into 1200 days. This is not a fly-by-night movement.”

At 8:00 p.m., around 100 gathered and marched through downtown St. Louis, stopping outside Busch Stadium, where they were met by a line of police. Inside the stadium, activists unfurled a banner that read “Racism Lives Here,” drawing attention away from the baseball game.

“No Justice, No Baseball!” was the chant heard back outside.

The demonstration was mostly peaceful until police gave the order to disperse around 10:00 p.m. and began using chemical agents on demonstrators.

Two arrests were reported, the Rev. Darryl Gray and organizer Calvin “Cap” Kennedy, who was tasered and pepper-sprayed.

Rasheen Aldridge, 5th Ward Committeeman, was pepper-sprayed after asking about the arrest of Rev. Gray, and live-streamer Heather De Mian was pepper-sprayed as she recorded police from her wheelchair.

The weekend of protest continued, the next morning. One week after police arrested 22 people at the St. Louis Galleria Mall demonstration, activists returned to the mall with a message:

“Our women, our children, our grandmothers, our men,” State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. said. “They manhandled them and we came back to let them know, look, we’re not scared. You can expect us. We’re going to be here. You’re going to get tired before we do.”

The mall demonstration ended peacefully with no arrests.


CONTRIBUTOR

Al Neal
Al Neal

Al Neal is the St. Louis Bureau Chief, writing on politics, the courts and legal affairs.

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