No arrests made during demonstration in capital city
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — No arrests were made during Thursday’s protest that ranged from the Capitol grounds to the Cole County Sheriff’s Office, despite a number of verbal faceoffs between organizers and police.
The demonstration began on the Capitol lawn shortly before 11 a.m. Nearly 100 protestors from across Missouri gathered around state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, who spoke against the special session and the governor’s emphasis on violent crime.
“People are tired of rhetoric and not real criminal justice reform,” Aldridge said. He decried the age and residency provisions included in SB 1, criticizing the priorities of the session and the time it took to see any traction on violent crime.
The bill passed out of the Senate last week but stalled in the lower chamber. The special session in the House has been postponed for nearly two weeks, and most lawmakers were not in the Capitol during the demonstration.
“SB 1 is dead, but all of us in this movement know its a small victory, and we’ve got to continue to work,” he said.
Aldridge was joined by Cori Bush, who defeated incumbent U.S. Congressman Lacy Clay for the Democratic nomination for Missouri’s first congressional district last week, as well as other speakers and organizers from Expect Us.
“Our work is to save the lives of Black people in this state and this country,” Bush told The Missouri Times. “That has to happen with law enforcement, it also has to happen in other parts of government. We’re asking our governor to care about all of Missouri. That’s why we’re here, and we’re glad SB 1 is dead.”
Protestors and police faced off for the first time along High Street, where a line of officers ordered demonstrators to move to the sidewalk or face arrest. The demonstration moved off the street and along the sidewalks in downtown Jefferson City.
The procession came to a stop in the courtyard of the Cole County Sherriff’s Office and Jail, where Bush took the megaphone to speak directly to police, who had filed into the building and out of sight.
“You don’t understand what it’s like to have to worry about your children every single day when they step outside,” Bush said. “We’re giving you an opportunity to course-correct because we’re standing here, and we’re asking you to come out and be an example for the state. Will you talk to these mothers who have lost their children?”
The demonstration moved back to the sidewalk, with Aldridge and Bush leading the group to the gates of the governor’s mansion. Aldridge and Rev. Darryl Gray spoke, followed by Gina Torres, whose son Isaiah was killed by a SWAT team in St. Louis in 2017.
“What this means to me is fighting for justice,” Torres told The Missouri Times. “If I could save another life, another parent, another child from bearing the pain that I go through every day, that’s one reason I’m out here. We want to get rid of practices that hurt our children, and I’m not gonna stop fighting. Our mouths can’t speak enough, and we need more people to realize that it could happen to anybody, no matter who you are.”
Leadership addressed the group in front of the gated entrance. Aldridge reiterated, “We will continue to come back because this is our lives, our future.”
The protestors began a “die-in,” lying face-down in the street outside of the Governor’s Mansion before police ordered them to clear the road almost immediately. A line of officers stood on the adjacent sidewalk, and another brief encounter ensued, with police urging protestors to leave the street or face arrest. Demonstrators responded with a chant of “de-escalate” until the line of police receded.
The protest dissolved back on the Capitol grounds after closing remarks from Bush and Aldridge. Bush directly addressed the governor though a message delivered to reporters to end the event.
“We’re asking you as our governor to care about each and every one of us,” Bush said. “This is not a confrontation; We just want to save lives right here, today, as one collective group of diverse people.”
This was the third in a series of protests by Expect Us demonstrating against the special session’s emphasis on violent crime, specifically SB 1. The bill included an end to residency requirements for St. Louis police officers and other public safety personnel, certification to try certain juveniles as adults, witness statement admissibility, creation of a pre-trial witness protection fund, modification of the offense of endangering a child, and an increased penalty for illegally transferring a firearm to a minor.
The first protest, which took place in late July, involved a similar “die-in” in front of the Governor’s Mansion and ended in eight arrests as well as the use of pepper balls by police. The second took place in the capitol last week, with demonstrators taking to the rotunda and the Senate galleries.
The Jefferson City Police Department has not yet released a statement on the day’s events. A representative for the department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.