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"At the same time," Roberts continues, "I think the folks who are making these statements are credible in their own mind. They use the 'by any means necessary' strategy, and personally I'm okay with them using this strategy in a reasonable manner."
Starsky Wilson, former president of the Urban League's Young Professional Chapter, was privy to the early stages of the Canyon-Johnson negotiations and doesn't doubt that the organization was serious at the outset about investing in St. Louis.
"They were very sincere," says Wilson, who is now CEO of the Urban League of Madison County, Illinois. "They took the opportunity to add at least an extra day's travel to their itinerary and did some visiting of various sites."
The coalition's scorched-earth tactics strike Wilson as overzealous. "That has not been the strategy of the Urban League in the past," he says. "In relation to economic development, it doesn't seem [the coalition's letter] was fruitful. I believe in mediation and moderation."
University of Missouri-St. Louis criminology professor David Klinger is less diplomatic.
"Anybody who knows anything about crime and justice knows that people in low-income communities have been clamoring for economic development as a way to provide employment to people who might otherwise turn to crime, as a means of providing an alternative to the hopelessness that sometimes leads to crime," says Klinger, a former Los Angeles police officer. "And yet now you have an opportunity to do exactly what people have been clamoring for and you're going to torpedo it? That makes absolutely no sense."
Wrong, counters longtime local civil-rights activist Percy Green.
"I understand the argument, but that's almost like saying that the Ku Klux Klan, instead of having white people hang black people, would like to open up employment for black folks to hang black folks," says Green, who describes himself as an "active supporter" of the coalition. "[A Canyon-Johnson development] only perpetuates people who've been carrying out injustices to continue to do so.
"I'm not only happy with Magic, but with others who've chosen not to do business here in St. Louis," Green adds. "The worst-case scenario would be to come in and do business with an administration and a mayor who is perpetuating racism for his own self-interest."
Are you still (not) listening, Professor Warren?
"According to the black community, the only administration that hasn't been racist is the Bosley administration" in the mid-1990s, says Warren. "I mean, even the Harmon administration [1997-2000] was presumed racist."