Category Archives: Local

St. Louis Sues to Allow Police to Abuse Protestors

The city of St. Louis has filed a motion to allow police to exact violence against demonstrators who do not pose a threat.

The city of St. Louis has filed a motion to allow police to use violence on protestors who pose no threat.

By Free Radical

On Friday, the St. Louis City Counselor’s Office filed a federal petition to grant local police the legal sanction to use strong arm tactics against protestors.

The case stems from the 2017 uprising in response to the Jason Shockley acquittal. Shockley, who was found not guiltily of first degree murder and armed criminal action after he killed Anthony Lamar Smith, a Black man, following a car chase. Video evidence placed much of Shockley’s story in doubt and hinted at the former police officer maliciously killing Smith as a result of becoming exasperated after the pursuit.

In the protests that ensued, police officers used “kettle” techniques to surround, and according to multiple witness statements, beat, taunt, and pepper spray demonstrators. Police officers also unknowingly beat a Black undercover cop at the scene.

This wanton violence sparked a 2017 ACLU lawsuit that resulted in a federal injunction which barred police from macing or threatening to mace individuals who posed no threat of violence.

Though the city initially expressed it would comply with the order, Friday’s motion sought to dissolve the injunction. The city contends that the ACLU “inveigled the Court into improvident intrusion into police practices in the City of St. Louis.” If successful, the city will be able to arbitrarily punish peaceful demonstrators with little legal consequence.

“We’ll be responding, but we see the case differently, of course,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. Rothert also expressed that motions to dismiss a case are common, especially when two opposing sides are nearing the end of the phase in which they exchange evidence.

The city and ACLU were also ordered to enter into resolution. They have not done so yet.

Ferguson-Florissant School Board to Use Cumulative Voting

School board elections in Ferguson-Florissant will now allow residents to choose two candidates.

School board elections in Ferguson-Florissant will now allow residents to choose two candidates.

By Free Radical 

The April election of the Ferguson-Florissant school board will use a new cumulative voting system where residents will cast two votes instead of one. The new policy is a result of a Voting Rights Act lawsuit filed in 2014 by the NAACP and ACLU.

The lawsuit alleged that for years white residents in the area had voted in blocs, zeroing in on one or two choices, while an unlimited number of candidates could run. This effectively diluted Black voting power and limited the number of Black School board members even though the area is nearly 80 percent Black.

At the time of the original suit, there was only one Black school board member represented in the seven person Ferguson-Florissant school board. The board has had acrimonious relationships with the area’s Black community which resulted in the ouster of former superintendent Art McCoy who has done a heralded job in the same position at Jennings.

The racism of the school board was highlighted as just one symptom of a larger, highly unequal ecosystem in North County brought to light in the wake of the rebellions sparked by the killing of Michael Brown in 2014.

Under the previous at large Ferguson-Florissant school board voting system, not only were Blacks in the district not represented, but according to some, they were not heard either. Missouri ACLU legal director Tony Rothert claimed, “those people who were elected under that system didn’t feel the need to listen as carefully to the needs of the Black community.”

In some similar cases, districts are divided into smaller voting areas to produce a more diverse school board. However the federal judge who oversaw the case saw no need for this arrangement, and instead opted for cumulative voting.

Voters can learn about cumulative voting and the different candidates running for the Ferguson-Florissant school board at at public meeting to be held Tuesday at 6pm at Greater Grace Church in Ferguson.

Local Conservatives Push Radical Pro-Gun Bills

Two new bills threaten to make gun ownership mandatory in Missouri.

Missouri conservatives are pushing two bills that would make gun ownership mandatory for every adult in the state.

By Free Radical 

Despite reoccurring episodes of disastrous gun violence, a Missouri representative is seeking to dramatically expand the number of gun owners in the state. Andrew McDaniel, a Republican state rep from Deering, proposed two new bills that would not only advocate, but also require Missouri adults to own guns.

The McDaniel Militia Act would mandate that “Every residents of this state shall own at least one AR-15.” The bill would compel all adults from age 18 to 35 to have the assault rifle . It would create a tax credit up to $1 million each year to subsidize these purchases by up to 75 percent.

Yet this is curious as there are many more than one million adults between the age of 18 and 35, even when accounting for individuals with felony convictions who are disqualified from gun ownership. Moreover, there has been little word of penalties for people who would not comply with the law.

Very few provisions have been fleshed out for McDaniel’s companion bill, the McDaniel Second Amendment Act. It would require every qualified adult aged 21 or older to own “a pistol, revolver, or other firearm designed to be held in one hand that is capable of firing .22 caliber ammunition or larger.”

Nonetheless, according to local sources, neither bill has been assigned to a committee or scheduled for a vote.

Proposed Carjacking Legislation Advocates Stiffer Punishments

By MCNS Staff

The Missouri State Capitol building in Jefferson City.

New carjacking legislation promises stiffer penalties but does not address prevention.

According to local reports, Missouri lawmakers announced a proposal for a new law on Monday that they say will make prison sentences for carjackers more uniform and easier to track. But it is unclear whether it will help combat crime.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake Saint Louis, and Rep. David Gregory, R-Fenton, announced the proposed legislation at the Old Post Office in St. Louis. Onder and Gregory are sponsors of the legislation.

Prosecutors currently charge carjackers under a general robbery law, which has led to varied sentences and makes the outcomes of carjacking prosecutions harder to track, the sponsors say, according to stltoday.com. The proposed legislation would create a charge called “motor vehicle hijacking,” making it easier to track and create uniform sentencing guidelines for the crime, according to Onder and Gregory.

Right now, to get stiffer sentences for carjackers, police must go to federal prosecutors, by way of determining that some part of the crime violated a federal law. If not, police can seek state charges. But the bill sponsors argue that local prosecutors don’t have the same type of laws the feds have to pick from when issuing charges on these crimes.

“It’s an epidemic,” Schmitt said, according to stltoday.com. “This is about removing the worst offenders from our streets. More accountability and accurate statistics will lead to a better understanding of the problem.”

Though Schmitt, Onder, and Gregory did not release copies of the proposal, they said it would include 10-year sentences for those who attempt to carry out carjackings with or without weapons as well as those who are successful. There are also mandatory sentences of 10 to 30 years for convicted carjackers who target the elderly, the disabled, and children.

A spokeswoman for St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner said Gardner would withhold comment until she was able to review the proposed legislation.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell issued a statement, which read, in part, “We welcome any attempt to make St. Louis County more safe through legislation, particularly with respect to violent crimes like ‘carjackings’ and we look forward to reviewing the proposed legislation.”

And in a statement, St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden said his department “will continue to diligently and rigorously investigate carjacking incidents, and will enforce any legislation approved by legislators.”

Critics share the sentiment with St. Louis metropolitan area officials in holding out support for the proposed legislation. There is suspicion that while crime in metropolitan areas is a real issue, the proposal for the new law targets Blacks and other people of color while not addressing the poverty that engenders criminal behavior.

And though Schmitt claims to value statistics and better understanding of the problem, he, nor Onder or Gregory did not mention specific measures in the proposal to address root causes.