ST. LOUIS – The panel of guests on Sunday’s episode of This Week in Missouri Politics discussed why protestors in St. Louis are continuing to protest in the city almost a month after the decision which found former police officer Jason Stockley not responsible for the death of Anthony Lamar Smith. Host Scott Faughn asked Rep. Bruce Franks, one of the most visible legislators part of the protests, why protestors are still angry.
“There’s a root cause for everything,” Franks said. “The root cause of violence in our neighborhood is lack of jobs, education, and resources. The root cause for unaccountability when it comes to the police department and minorities and marginalized people being killed is culture. We have to do these things that we’ve done over history and that’s protest, civil disobedience.”
For Franks, while some people get caught up in the rhetoric and sensationalized coverage of the protests, he encourages Missourians to address personal facts of the case and the institutional problems that St. Louis residents of color face. While he feels that the Missouri General Assembly could pass legislation to improve community-police relations in the city, he thinks the protest is the best way to change the culture in St. Louis.
“At the end of the day, we could put forth legislation, we can put forth a list of demands, but that doesn’t get folks to understand that the police and the system will [have to] stop killing black folks,” he adds. “If we’re not getting buy-in from folks in the community, our businesses, our corporations in the community to actually care about black lives and marginalized lives, we have to take to the streets. We have to do exactly what we’ve been doing.”
David Spence, chairman of Legacy Pharmaceutical Packaging, a company which employs hundreds of Missourians and operates out of St. Louis, created Ferguson1000, which was designed to bring economic opportunity to St. Louis. While he agrees that there are root causes that disproportionately affect the black community in St. Louis, he disagrees with what they specifically are.
“I have not walked in your shoes and I respect you, but you’re losing me,” Spence said to Franks. “It’s reliable childcare, it’s education. It’s also transportation and can you pass a drug test.”
Franks felt Spence missed the point. “It’s about culture. It’s about being able to live comfortably, even in my economically distressed neighborhood. It’s about knowing that when I call the police, I can count on the police that I’m going to be alive [after the encounter.]”
Michael Layer is a reporter for the Missouri Times and the Missouri Times Magazine. He joined the Missouri Times in August 2017 after graduating from Goucher College the previous May. To contact Michael, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @_MichaelLayer