“In light of the numerous reports of senseless violence, the lack of prosecution, and the unwillingness for the police and security personnel to protect the innocent, all citizens of [Jefferson County] should take great caution before traveling to St. Louis City,” Wieland, a Republican, said on social media Saturday.
Wieland pointed to an alleged attack on a group of Catholic people praying near the Louis IX statue on top of Art Hill last week, the assault of a 19-year-old woman at a MetroLink station, and recent protestors blocking highways or trespassing on private property as reasons for his travel advisory.
“As long as St. Louis City refuses to protect the public, and allows this lawlessness to flourish, I am advising my family, friends, and the law-abiding people I represent to avoid traveling to or through St. Louis City,” he said.
State Rep. Peter Merideth, who represents part of St. Louis, said he was “disappointed” in Wieland’s directive in a lengthy response on social media.
He said he was “proud” of the recent protests against racism and “ashamed of a few radical Catholics openly defending white supremacy while other protestors stood there against racism and hate.” Merideth, who is Catholic, said there was “no violence, no ‘attacks’” during the demonstration he witnessed.
In addition, Wieland noted the mask mandates issued by both the city and county of St. Louis as Missouri continues to grapple with the COVID-19 health crisis. The city and county began requiring masks or face coverings in indoor and outdoor public settings on July 3.
Wieland, who was elected to the Senate in 2014, said leaders of both places have “apparently lost control of the [coronavirus] outbreak.”
“If the situation there is that dire, I would suggest [Jefferson County] citizens refrain from traveling or shopping in those areas,” he said.
More than 6,500 people in St. Louis County and 2,500 people in the city of St. Louis have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday morning. Nearly 600 people in the county and more than 150 in the city have died.
More than 500 people in Jefferson County have been infected by coronavirus and 22 people have died.
“I’m now ashamed that an elected senator in this state would make such dog-whistle, racist, and blatantly false claims about the protests, about criminal justice reform efforts, and about the city so many Missourians call home. I’m ashamed that a sitting senator would discredit a mask requirement as our entire nation has responded embarrassingly to a pandemic with only 4 percent of the global population and yet a quarter of the cases and deaths,” Merideth, a Democrat, said. “Wonder why? It’s leadership like yours, and like the president’s, continuing to deny the need for serious steps and deriding community efforts to reduce spread.”
“Perhaps as you encourage your constituents to avoid St. Louis, you should also consider the economic impact of doing so — seeing as you seem to value the economy over lives in this pandemic,” he continued. “This city and county you deride remains the largest economic engine of the state — providing far more of our share in taxes paid and revenue produced. Attacking us attacks our very state.”
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.