With the upcoming mayoral and aldermanic elections, we have a chance to create a Midwest beacon for civil liberties in St. Louis. For far too long Missouri as a state, and St. Louis in particular, have garnered headlines for racial inequality and racist policing. St. Louis is a series of systems that are badly broken and in need of repair so that each of its residents has an opportunity to thrive. For months, the ACLU has texted, called, and spoken to voters who care about this city. Now, it is time to take the pledge to all do our part — starting with those on the ballot.
The ACLU of Missouri engaged in this race to protect constitutional rights. The right to privacy, the right to vote, and the right to liberty and justice.
Our involvement isn’t about one candidate.
Last year we saw too many alders charmed by Persistent Surveillance Systems which would have brought spy planes to St. Louis. This boondoggle is ineffective and even the Baltimore Police Department, which gave it a notorious trial, wanted it discontinued there. Our city spent nearly $4 million on surveillance technology in the last three years with no effort to put in place safeguards to use that money and those technologies effectively and respectfully of civil liberties. This election is about every St. Louis resident who wants a say in how they are policed.
This election is about every St. Louis resident that believes incarceration is not the way out of a crisis. The Board of Aldermen and the next mayor have a chance to fight mass incarceration in the state overall by committing to decriminalizing poverty. Arrests and fines for low-level offenses such as begging, loitering, and prostitution treat being poor as if it is a crime and increase racial disparities. This system balloons jails and prolongs the continued existence of the workhouse. This election is about liberty and justice for all.
We do not endorse candidates or select candidates to run for office but we will hold them accountable when they run and when they are elected to serve. We want you, the voter, to know what’s at stake and to affirm your commitment to civil liberties by taking our pledge. Your vote matters. Your voice matters and your vision for our city matters. Let’s make sure that in this election we are clear in our intentions to hold our elected officials accountable to the creation of a city that supports civil liberties starting day one.
Luz María Henríquez is the executive director of the ACLU of Missouri, where she leads the organization’s legal, policy, communications, fundraising, and administrative operations and programs.