Friday, September 29, 2017

Protesters: Our Only Real Demand Is 'Stop Killing Us'

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 6:34 AM

click to enlarge Protesters marched along Washington Avenue following the 'People's Town Hall' on Thursday night. - PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
  • PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
  • Protesters marched along Washington Avenue following the 'People's Town Hall' on Thursday night.
For nearly two weeks, protesters against police abuse have marched across St. Louis, while even some of their supporters have wondered about the end goal.

"The response is always, 'So what do they want?'" Michelle Higgins told a crowd gathered Thursday night for a town hall meeting inside Christ Church Cathedral downtown. "We've heard it from Day One. It is, say it together, 'Stop killing us!'"

At least 200 people seated in the pews and standing along the walls shouted the last part. A later march along Washington Avenue turned tense during a short-lived standoff with police in riot gear, but the meeting at the Locust Street church was more of an information session with a Q-and-A with sympathetic elected officials.

The "People's Town Hall" was organized after Mayor Lyda Krewson decided last week to postpone a town hall until things quieted down following the Jason Stockley verdict, saying in a statement that she was listening to constituents via social media and email. Kennard Williams, part of Decarcerate STL and one of the event's presenters, said if the mayor really wanted to hear from people, she would meet them in person.

click to enlarge From left: Treasurer Tishaura Jones, Alderwoman Megan Ellyia Green, Democratic Committeeman Rasheen Aldridge and Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. - PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
  • PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
  • From left: Treasurer Tishaura Jones, Alderwoman Megan Ellyia Green, Democratic Committeeman Rasheen Aldridge and Rep. Bruce Franks Jr.
At the front of the church, organizers left an empty chair for Krewson near a panel of speakers that included city Treasurer Tishaura Jones, state Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. (D-St. Louis), 15th Ward Alderwoman Megan Ellyia Green and Democratic Committeeman Rasheen Aldridge.

They passed out a list of demands, which include an audit of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the shutdown of the "workhouse" city jail, the resignation of Krewson and the removal of interim police Chief Lawrence O'Toole and Judge Timothy Wilson, who found Stockley, an ex-cop, not guilty of murdering Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011.

Jeff Roorda, the business manager of the police union representing city officers, also made the list: "And we demand, as always, that Jeff Roorda be fired."

Kayla Reed, founder of the St. Louis Action Council, said the list was designed as steps along the path to what protesters really want.

"We'll keep circulating the demands, but there's really only one," Reed said, rallying the crowd again. "And what's that demand? Stop killing us."

click to enlarge Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. says protesters need to make city leaders 'feel it'  to make change. - PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
  • PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
  • Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. says protesters need to make city leaders 'feel it' to make change.
In the past, protesters have marched until government leaders have decided to invite them to negotiate, Franks said. But he warned this time would be different, arguing that the only way to force any real change is to consistently disrupt the status quo. The demonstrations have already made an economic dent, closing malls and prompting U2 and Ed Sheeran to cancel concerts.

"The only way we can hold them accountable is, we've got to make them feel it," Franks said, adding, "When they've think it's been enough, and they want to bring us to the table, make them feel it some more until we're ready to come to the table."

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at doyle.murphy@riverfronttimes.com or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.



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