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Statewide protest calls attention to plight of Missouri renters amid coronavirus outbreak

Statewide protest calls attention to plight of Missouri renters amid coronavirus outbreak

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BRIDGETON — About 60 drivers parked their vehicles alongside Interstate 70 between St. Louis and Kansas City for one hour on Monday to bring attention to tenants struggling to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers said.

“This isn’t just a St. Louis issue, this is an issue across the state,” Shuron Jones, 35, said by telephone from an SUV on the shoulder of westbound I-70 at St. Charles Rock Road in Bridgeton.

Windows on her vehicle were painted with messages directed to Gov. Mike Parson, calling for rent to be canceled.

For her part, Jones, an adjunct instructor of African American studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a tour guide at the Scott Joplin House State Historic Site, said she splits $1,345 monthly rent with her sister for a 2-bedroom apartment in south St. Louis.

“I’ve been able to pay rent for April,” said Jones, a member of the State Street Tenant Resistance of St. Louis. “May is going to be tough. And June, I won’t be able to pay.”

State Street Tenant Resistance is one of about 50 organizations that make up the Coalition to Protect Missouri Tenants, said Tara Raghuveer, a spokeswoman for the demonstration.

She said 63 vehicles participated in the demonstration along I-70 from noon to 1 p.m. Monday. She said a lot of people brought their children and dogs with them.

Among their demands to state leaders: institute a rent and mortgage suspension, stop evictions and foreclosures, ban utility shut-offs and mandate universal service, and provide homes and expanded services for people experiencing homelessness.

Raghuveer said that they hadn’t heard a response from Parson.

Parson has repeatedly signaled he does not plan to issue any directives on the matter. On Monday, during his daily briefing, the governor said the judicial branch handles eviction proceedings.

“We’re not going to do an order for the entire state to allow people not to pay your rent,” he said. “There’s a process in place for that. And that system needs to work.”

Jack Suntrup of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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