ST. LOUIS — Protests and commemorations again dotted the St. Louis area Friday as demonstrators and mourners took to the streets to demand change, as well as to remember the life of a local protester.
Friday’s events come after weeks of demonstrations across the region, including marches against police violence and rallies to close the St. Louis Medium Security Institution, also known as the workhouse.
After a Friday morning protest that called for the city to close the workhouse, Mayor Lyda Krewson in a Facebook Live briefing read the names and addresses of several protesters who had handed her suggestions for alternative city budgets.
The move drew ire online, including a petition calling for Krewson’s resignation that, as of 11:30 p.m., had garnered more than 8,000 signatures.
Earlier Friday, a crowd of more than 50 marched outside the workhouse, one of two city jails that has long been controversial because of claims of inhumane conditions. Friday’s was the second of two “Close the Workhouse” protests in as many weeks.
Protesters then moved to City Hall and found the outer gates to the building locked. A short time later, when most protesters had left, Krewson and Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards briefly stepped outside.
The officials went back inside after a protester shouted questions through a megaphone for a few minutes about the medium-security jail.
Calling the appearance by the two a victory for the demonstrators’ reform movement, protest organizer Inez Bordeaux, manager of community collaborations for Arch City Defenders, also said it was “not a good-faith effort to engage with us.”
“They are in crisis mode,” Bordeaux said. “They are in spin mode. They know that they’re on the ropes. We have majority support on the Board of Aldermen. We have broad citywide support for defunding the workhouse. I believe they came out here as a photo opportunity to be able to say that protesters were outside and they came outside to speak, especially after they locked the gates.”
The group then held a “people’s budget hearing” on the sidewalk to list their demands for the city’s 2021 budget as aldermen met inside to discuss the next year’s budget, including proposed cuts in funding for the workhouse. Protesters say city officials should reduce funding for police, jails and prosecutors in favor of housing, mental health programs and other social services.
After appearing with protesters, Krewson held the Facebook Live briefing. “They presented some papers to me about how they wanted the budget to be spent,” Krewson said, holding up a stack of crumpled papers with names and addresses of Friday’s demonstrators.
Krewson then began reading the names of demonstrators and their demands.
“Here’s one that wants $50 million to go to Cure Violence, $75 million to go to Affordable Housing, $60 million to go to Health and Human Services and have zero go to the police,” the mayor said. She then read the name of the individual and the person’s address.
Krewson listed several other names and addresses, and stated that each individual shared a desire for no money to be allocated to police. As the mayor spoke, comments flooded the live Facebook comment section, with viewers asking the mayor to stop sharing the demonstrators’ personal information.
By 8 p.m Friday, the mayor’s public page and the video had been removed from Facebook.
The ACLU of Missouri tweeted Friday evening that the mayor’s decision to read the names and addresses of St. Louis residents was “shocking and misguided” and “served no apparent purpose beyond intimidation.”
“I would like to apologize for identifying individuals who presented letters to me at City Hall as I was answering a routine question during one of my updates earlier today,” Krewson said late Friday in a statement through a spokesperson. “While this is public information, I did not intend to cause distress or harm to anyone.”
On June 17, at Krewson’s request, a city panel voted to cut spending on the workhouse to free up money to hire mental health and social workers to aid police. That $860,000 shift was in addition to plans to cut the $16 million jail budget nearly in half as inmate counts decline.
The mayor and her public safety team insist the jail is still needed. The city has spent more than $5 million since 2017 on upgrades to the jail. The city also has closed two floors with cells.
The jail on Friday held 92 inmates. It has a capacity of 436.
Later in the day, about 35 people marched down Olive Boulevard in Chesterfield, halting traffic for more than a mile to protest police violence. The march was organized by students from Parkway Central High School.
Kamilah Gamble, 17, an incoming senior, said marching makes her feel empowered. She said people in her age group are “driven and headstrong (for) change.”
“Although all lives matter, right now, this is about Black people and us feeling like we’re not being treated equal,” Gamble said.
As demonstrators walked down North Wood Mills Road, Amy Falke, 41, and her son Evan, 12, stood along the road and watched.
“It’s interesting and it’s really good,” Evan said as his mother’s eyes filled with tears. “It’s good that there is change.”
“I personally just didn’t realize what people were going through until I saw Michael Brown, and I was like ‘This is so bad,’” Amy Falke said. “I just hope to instill it in the kids, that things are not easy for everybody.”
Others honked and waved to protesters in a show of support, but not all welcomed the halted traffic and chants of the demonstrators. One man yelled, “Get a (expletive deleted) job,” and a female driver shouted, “Go home!”
But Brenda Brown, 47, of Chesterfield, said change often comes with a sacrifice.
“What the students wanted to do is send a message that change doesn’t happen unless there is a sacrifice,” Brown said. ”The sacrifice this afternoon was (for drivers) to wait. George Floyd died in the public, so why would we hide our protest?”
In honor of a protester and, as those who knew her best called her, a social justice fighter, about 50 people stood in the street for more than an hour in front of the Ferguson Police Department Friday evening, shutting down traffic on South Florissant Road.
Debra Kennedy, 59, a well-known Ferguson protester and critic of the police, died June 12. Her cause of death as of Friday was unknown, according to family members.
In the parking lot across the street from the police station, family and friends recalled fond memories of Kennedy before releasing balloons in her honor.
Kennedy grew up in East St. Louis and had planned to retire after working as a postal worker. She was an Air Force veteran and was honorably discharged from the military, according to her obituary. She was remembered Friday as a person who “tirelessly” fed the homeless, advocated for Black and LGBTQ rights and “hated racist police.”
“The history of what happened here in Ferguson is also Debra’s history. She inspired people to take action over and over. Debra was a civil rights leader,” said Steven Hoffmann, a St. Louis University law student who worked with Kennedy through the National Lawyers Guild.
State Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal spoke during Kennedy’s balloon release, and Ferguson Councilwoman Fran Griffin also attended the event.
When Ferguson was slow to comply with its 2016 federal consent decree concerning racial biases in the department, Kennedy pushed for compliance.
She was also quoted in various media criticizing the city after it was sued by the Department of Justice.
Most recently, Kennedy protested the police killing of Terry Tillman and also attended city council meetings in Richmond Heights, where she firmly addressed city leaders.
Kennedy’s funeral will be Monday, according to an obituary from Lake View Funeral Home in Fairview, Illinois.
At about 9:15 p.m., as the group remained on the road, police gave an order to disperse.
Joel Currier • 314-340-8132 @joelcurrier on Twitter firstname.lastname@example.org
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