Both the City of St. Louis and Ferguson Decision Protestors need to get their act together. Both failed at Wednesday’s St. Louis City Hall Protest.
We knew there were going to be protestors in Downtown St. Louis. Protests in Downtown are not new. Protests at our court buildings and City Hall are not new. Some of us have participated in protests, including Ferguson related marches. Nobody at work thought much of it. Been there. Done that. And so we went about our work.
11:30 am: I saw four employees, first lunch shift in our office, leave the office with coats on.
11:33 am: I saw the four employees come back into the office.
11:35 am: We were told City Hall was on Lockdown because of protestors. Customers could not come in. We could not leave. If we had ordered delivery lunch, tough break. The gates to the Tucker entrance were closed
11:38 am: Employees noted that Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce had posted a positive Tweet about the protestors.
So we were on Lockdown during a peaceful protest. Brilliant.
11:45 am: Some employees went to check out the scene from a window of the east side of the building. Peaceful protest. Nice size group. Traffic shut down. Some signs. Some yelling. No big deal. We had no clue as to what protestors had done to cause a Lockdown. It was all very peculiar.
12:11 pm: St. Louis Police Department tweeted they were at City Hall and had made arrests.
1:12 pm: City Employees received an email from Mayor Slay- “Dear City Employees, In celebration of our National Day of Thanksgiving, all City departments may be reduced to a skeleton crew at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. Please check with your supervisor before leaving. As you know, we have had boisterous but peaceful demonstrators downtown, today. There was a small skirmish at City Hall around noon, but there were no injuries nor property damage. Thank you for your patience.”
That’s when we knew Lockdown would be over by 2 pm in order to let employees out of the building. As for the “small skirmish,” we were clueless.
Nothing about the Lockdown made any sense to us.
Two videos shed some light on that day’s actions by the City and protestors.
The first video shows peaceful protest activity and that City Hall was closed by the time protestors showed up. That’s an important fact. Lockdown did not occur because of something protestors did at City Hall. It was preemptive. As a big fan of the First Amendment, this does not sit well with me. I have no inside information on why this happened. But I firmly believe City Hall belongs to the People during regular business hours. You can be bounced out for all sorts of reasons, and I’m good with most of that. But admission is for everyone. The City should have a damn great reason for keeping citizens out. I hope Media finds out what that great reason is, or who is to blame if it was a mistake, and reports on it.
The video also shows the protest moved to the south side of City Hall and its closed doors. Inside, we had no idea there was any activity at the south entrance.
The second video shows protestors rushing, charging, pushing, however you want to describe some very aggressive movement, to get past two City Marshals and into City Hall.
Since when is rushing, charging, or pushing law enforcement officers considered nonviolent protest? You never, ever, never, never, never, never make aggressive physical contact with a law enforcement officer. Never. I don’t know who came up with this idea that it is OK but it’s not OK.
Protest is not supposed to be comfortable. Totally with the Movement on that point. I was protesting long before some of today’s protestors were even born. I have participated in Ferguson protest marches. I believe in the power of nonviolent protest. This specific activity at City Hall by a few protestors on Wednesday, however, is something different, something I cannot support.
You do not have a First Amendment Right to touch someone who does not want to touched. No means No, in sex and in protest.
But the City of St. Louis is not without fault on this occasion. Based on the information I have right now, City Hall should not have been closed. Once it was closed, however, the door should not have been opened. No good was going to come from opening it. Marshals knew there was a crowd of protestors at the door. Had the door not been opened, the entire incident would not have happened.
I am disappointed with the Movement and the City. Both have written textbook examples on how not to conduct a protest and how not to respond to a protest. I have called this protest a Disaster because everyone has had long enough to figure how to do this right and, yet, it went wrong.
– Marie Ceselski