What’s Wrong* With St. Louis

This is what’s wrong* with St. Louis.

I am supposed to be at a party right now. Instead, I am writing about why I am not there.

We received an electronic invitation to an annual holiday party. One of the hosts is known for his political incorrectness, an equal opportunity offender. This year’s invitation, however, crossed the line and then some.

It started out as the “It’ll Be A Riot” Cocktail Party with admonishment “Pants Up, Don’t Loot.”

Weeks later, the invitation was revised. It got worse, horribly worse.

xmasinvite2014

Those Reply Options include: Torch & Pitchfork, Looking For Riot Gear, No Time To Burn.

For me, far more offensive than the invitation was what came with it.

  • The comments made in reply to the invite are all positive. Invitees think it’s hilarious. This is what’s wrong with St. Louis: People of White Privilege who remain emotionally insulated from the injustice all around them. People unfamiliar with what a majority of the citizens in St. Louis City face each day because of the color of their skin. Or worse, people who do know what is going on, but remain silent.
  • A staffer for a local elected official, someone who represents the official at events on occasion, gave a Yes RSVP to the event. This is what’s wrong with St. Louis: People who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk; People who only give witness to justice and peace when they are on the clock. 

This is what’s wrong* with St. Louis.

City Halls, County Courthouses, these are the remaining people’s houses. Forget about the U.S. Capitol and State Capitol. Congress and Missouri Legislature are hopeless. Local. Local is where it is at. Local is where you can still make change. Our cities and counties still belong to us and not the lobbyists.

But Police in riot gear now keep people out of their house of government in St. Louis City and all should be troubled by this.

It’s not the first time this year that St. Louis City Hall has been put on Lockdown before protestors arrived at the steps.

This is what’s wrong with St. Louis: Fear of inconvenience has become grounds to prevent the people from entering the people’s house.

Does the City of St. Louis have a responsibility to secure lives and property inside City Hall? Yes. It can require you to go through a security system and ensure you are not bringing weapons or anything else that it deems might cause harm to persons or property. It can also require you to get a permit to hold an event in the building.

The City can and should remove you if you prevent others from conducting their license, tax, recording, or other business at City Hall. It can and should remove you if you block exits for escape in the event of a fire. It can and should remove you for using foul language.

The City can and should arrest you for damaging property or harming others. It can and should arrest you for laying a finger on another person without their consent.

The City can also require you to sign in and out of a building. It can require you to wear a shirt and shoes in the building. It can require you to refrain from activity that common courtesy would otherwise prevent you from doing had we not failed to teach you manners.

I have zero problem with any of that.

Is an escape from the Justice Center, across the street from City Hall, legitimate grounds to Lockdown City Hall? Absolutely.

Is the potential inconvenience of a protest legitimate grounds to Lockdown City Hall? No. I do not think it is. Prior restraint censorship in the people’s house should require a heavy litmus test. And I hope that this issue is debated in this Spring’s 7th Ward alderman race, the other alderman races, and by the Board President candidates.

This is what’s wrong* with St. Louis.

St. Louis American, 12/12/1024

Dotson said he was unsure whether it has been the police commanders on the scene that have ordered the building closed or whether it has been the mayor’s office.

That’s a very, very scary statement coming from Police Chief Sam Dotson. We must not allow the police to shut down the people’s house without consent of the duly elected Mayor.

We need to know what’s going on here. Mayor Francis G. Slay is City Hall’s landlord. Mayors for decades have griped about what powers they did not have. But there is one thing we know for sure, the Mayor is the landlord of city buildings. The Mayor makes decisions on when to close for inclement weather and should be the only person with the ability to put City Hall on Lockdown.

This is what’s wrong with St. Louis. Pass the buck. No one takes responsibility for an unpopular decision or a mistake. It’s another issue for the upcoming Spring election: Who should make the decision and be accountable for the decision to prevent the people from their house of government?

*This is by no means a complete list. And, for the record, what’s right about St. Louis, which I tweet about every day, far exceeds what’s wrong about her.

-Marie Ceselski

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