Mary Jo Harkins
Joshua Lawrence is the founder of STL PoliticClips.
Joshua Lawrence, 29, is the founder of the popular Twitter account @STLPoliticClips
, which reposts clips from St. Louis city Board of Aldermen meetings. RFT
spoke with Lawrence to learn more about him, his Twitter account and the BOA.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How long have you lived in St. Louis?
I’ve been in the metro area all of my life. I grew up around Fenton, surrounded by the Gravois Bluffs development …It was a pretty conservative place, but I had a happy enough childhood, provided for by my mom, an SLPS teacher of 30 years, and my dad, an accountant/medical delivery man.
When did you become interested in the St. Louis political scene?
I became more involved in St. Louis politics after moving to Dutchtown in 2017. Soon after, SLMPD raided three homes on my block. My neighbor, 63-year-old Don Clark [a.k.a. Pops], was killed by them. It was a violent event with no justice, perpetuated by racist policy. It has existed for a long time but this was my first big exposure. It is the type of policy that we have to keep fighting.
To be clear, I don’t want to center myself. Please support ArchCity Defenders and Pops’ family's efforts; I simply knew him as a neighbor. But it is something that I carry with me. It cemented the analysis that policy is not some abstract thing. It is life and death. This is even more so for BIPOC and/or our LGBTQIA+ neighbors.
Constantly, I try to think “what is in my ability; what is needed to prevent these events from happening in the future”? Turns out, pulling video and explaining things is in my ability and was needed. I can only hope this helps those doing the vital on-the-ground work.
How did you start STL PoliticClips?
I guess the first iteration of STL PoliticClips was just my own personal Twitter account. If something odd happened at a board meeting, I would pull the video and just caption it “I love this city.”
It became more formal after discovering the work of Gerry Connolly (@GConnolly314
), a local TIF watchdog following and publicizing nearly every development in STL, and [I] realized that an archive of BOA meetings was needed. If every project stands on the shoulders of giants, Gerry is the giant which helped catalyst the project.
More formally, I was also volunteering on various BOA [election] campaigns. These included Dr. Megan Green’s (through St. Louis DSA
), Tina "Sweet T" Pihl, Bill Stephens', and Shedrick "Nato Caliph" Kelley’s. I didn’t do too much, but during that time, I noticed there was a disconnect from what people thought was going on and what was actually going on. People believed that certain alders were “progressive” when in reality they were always parroting right-wing talking points during meetings.
That is not the public’s fault. Government and legislation is purposefully obtuse and hard to decipher, especially for the proletariat.
What's your favorite clip that you've ever posted and why?
Oddly enough, I just created a “Best Of” playlist not too long ago
. It’s got everything that’s gotten more than 30 likes and is a great all-around entry point.
As far as personal favorite goes… Car Wash Daddy [a nickname for Joe Vaccaro, Alderman of Ward 23] vacuuming during a meeting is one I reference often, alongside former Alderman of Ward 21 John Collins-Muhammad getting a haircut during a live session. It was towards the end of the meeting and nothing vital but still very funny that it happened.
I’d also be remiss to not mention Alderwoman Shameem Clark-Hubbard’s (and countless co-sponsors') Civilian Oversight Board. To be honest, any clip of Alderwoman Clark-Hubbard showcases a lot of knowledge and compassion.
What do you think will happen in the November 8 BOA presidential election?
I’m so glad you use the word think here. Anyone who claims to know for sure is trying to sell you something. That being said, I usually reserve making the “Babe Ruth call shot” until the day of. I’ll leave it at, the city of St Louis has seen so many progressive wins, and I am hopeful that it continues not just electorally, but within direct actions as well.
What are some important bills, conversations going on within the BOA that people should know?
So right now, we’ve got a couple of things on our Watchlist Dashboard
. It updates every Sunday, and we post about the board bills and resolutions we’re going to add to the coverage on Thursdays, the day before the full Board of Aldermen meetings. It also has a playlist archive as well as how to contact your representatives. It’s a tool that is constantly expanding, but probably our key feature.
As far as specifics go, the Lighthouse development project north of the Chain of Rocks is the big topic of debate currently ongoing. Building a marina/water park in a floodplain is a thing people should definitely know about. It’s fairly complicated, as development is certainly needed, as areas of our city have been purposefully disinvested due to racist policy; the question is how and what will help all succeed. I truthfully don’t know the answer but remain hopeful for the future.