It was difficult to watch the outburst that was the Sept. 16 St. Louis County Council meeting and not have a strong reaction to it.
Protestors from Ferguson filled the room. For two hours they ranted and raved as the council sat – mostly in silence. The wrath of the protestors was largely directed at Steve Stenger, the Democratic candidate for St. Louis County Executive. At one point, St. Louis activist Anthony Shahid approached the dais and came uncomfortably close to Stenger. Hangmen’s nooses around his neck, Shahid made demands of Stenger, but would not let him speak.
Whether you agree with the protestors or not, its hard not to watch such proceedings without flashing back – at least for a moment – to the Kirkwood Council meeting into which Cookie Thornton stormed.
Anger is only one letter away from danger, and the two all too often go hand-in-hand.
It also is hard not to think for a moment about Monarch Fire District Board meetings and the recent drama there over leaked information regarding the fire board’s plan to use bulletproof vests to “bulletproof” the dais behind which they sit. At the time, the fire board’s reaction – disciplining the firefighter-paramedic for “leaking” the information – seemed a bit extreme as did the notion that such security measures would be needed in the first place. But watching the drama unfold on Tuesday offers another perspective. So much unrest and anger boiling up in one room, undeterred by police officers on site was, to say the least, intimidating.
Why was Shahid allowed to come from behind the speaker’s podium and get so close to the councilmembers? Why were protestors allowed to speak, rant and rave for two hours? Did the councilmembers feel intimidated, threatened or as if things were out of control? Things certainly appeared out of control.
What about the threats the protestors made to disrupt St. Louis Cardinals and Rams games, the World Series (should the Cardinals get that far) and even grocery shopping trips by ordinary citizens? What do threats such as those do to the local economy?
These are all questions West Newsmagazine wanted to discuss with our local councilmembers Collen Wasinger (District 3) and Greg Quinn (District 7), with council chairwoman Hazel Erby or County Executive candidate Stenger. But not one of them returned the calls of West Newsmagazine reporter Mary Shapiro.
Quinn we know was traveling, but as to why these other elected officials chose to remain silent is anyone’s guess. Perhaps West County seems far removed from Ferguson. It’s not.
During those first few weeks, it was easy to watch the unrest in Ferguson and feel isolated from it in our homes in West St. Louis County, even as national and international media outlets focused on the story.
But how isolated will we feel if we have to walk through protestors to root for the Cardinals or Rams? Or if we cannot shop in peace?
The truth is: the unrest in Ferguson continues to affects us all.