Home US News Amid Protests, St. Louis Mayor Walks a Political Tightrope

Amid Protests, St. Louis Mayor Walks a Political Tightrope


ST. LOUIS — After hours of mostly peaceful protests over a white former police officer’s acquittal in the fatal shooting of a black man, a crowd of demonstrators gathered in St. Louis Friday night outdoors the new mayor’s house. Quickly, rocks had been flying.

4 windows broke and red paint was splattered on the outdoors of the house. Mayor Lyda Krewson was at Police Headquarters watching a protester’s on the internet video of the demonstration, understanding that her household was inside the brick property.

No a single was hurt, but the episode was a reminder of the immediate and direct challenges Ms. Krewson faces as she leads a city struggling with a high murder rate, diminished by decades of population loss, deeply divided along racial lines and facing day following day of protests. On Tuesday, the fifth day of demonstrations over the police acquittal, protesters gathered downtown and blocked visitors after Ms. Krewson postponed three town hall meetings, such as one particular planned for that evening.

Ms. Krewson, who is white and a Democrat, staked her campaign for mayor this year on a promise to curb the violence and heal divisions in St. Louis, a city of 311,000 that has roughly even numbers of black and white residents. She is now engaged in a precarious political balancing act: straining to reassure protesters that she wants to hear and solve their concerns while also condemning lawlessness and standing in help of the police.

“Frankly, I don’t think those two positions are dichotomous,” Ms. Krewson said in an interview at her City Hall office, exactly where in recent days she has watched protesters march on the street below. “It shouldn’t be tough to understand what protesters are saying, and also at the same time to support law enforcement.”

That strategy, even so, has drawn criticism both from police supporters and protesters. Every group sees Ms. Krewson as frustratingly equivocal and insufficiently supportive.

“She does not have the political capital to bring to a dilemma like this,” stated Mike Jones, a longtime figure in St. Louis politics and a Democrat who serves on the Missouri State Board of Education.

The region’s racial tensions have been laid bare in 2014, when a white police officer in nearby Ferguson fatally shot an unarmed black 18-year-old, major to months of tense demonstrations that included a couple of nights of looting and arson. Ahead of the verdict right here on Friday, activists had pledged a new round of protests if the judge acquitted Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis officer who fatally shot Anthony Lamar Smith, 24, soon after a higher-speed chase in 2011. Those protests, which on 3 nights ended with home damage and arrests, have drawn hundreds of demonstrators and prompted the cancellation of major concerts and higher school sporting events.

Several African-Americans here have said that they feel disrespected and mistreated by the police, and that their possibilities are limited in a area where housing is segregated and exactly where the best jobs and schools are in mostly white neighborhoods. Ms. Krewson has referred to as those issues “real impediments to the achievement of our city.”

Nevertheless, some view her as heavy-handed in response to the most recent protests and slow to make tangible adjustments. Tishaura Jones, the city treasurer, who has attended some of the protests in current days, mentioned Ms. Krewson seemed “like she’s taking the side of the police.”

Such a stance additional alienates protesters, mentioned Ms. Jones, who finished second to Ms. Krewson in this year’s Democratic mayoral primary in March.

Ms. Jones was one particular of numerous properly-recognized African-Americans in the mayoral race, and some political analysts have theorized that those candidates split the black vote and permitted Ms. Krewson, the only prominent white candidate, to sweep into workplace with 32 percent of the principal vote. A St. Louis Post-Dispatch analysis found that Ms. Krewson had deep assistance in components of the city, but polled under 5 % in some wards on the mostly black North Side.

Ms. Krewson, 64, a certified public accountant and the 1st lady to serve as mayor of St. Louis, took an unlikely path to City Hall. She was elected to the St. Louis board of aldermen in 1997, two years following her husband was killed in an attempted carjacking outdoors her property.

Heather Navarro, who assumed Ms. Krewson’s seat on the board this year, mentioned that the mayor was regarded as a responsive straight-shooter in the ward she represented, a majority-white area west of downtown.

“I believe, over all, men and women really, genuinely respect her,” Ms. Navarro stated. “She tends to listen well. She’s actually very good at dealing with difficult scenarios and making certain that all sides are heard.”

Ms. Krewson replaced Francis Slay as mayor, whose 16-year tenure was the longest in city history. “These are really challenging challenges for any mayor or law enforcement agency,” Mr. Slay said. “There is no effortless way or surefire, textbook strategy to addressing them.” He declined to comment further.

Ms. Krewson’s method in current weeks — she released a video statement prior to the verdict urging calm, and has mentioned she was “appalled” by what occurred to Mr. Smith — earned her praise from some who hope for much more concrete action in the months ahead.

“Time will inform if we’re able to enact those significant policy alterations,” stated Michael McMillan, chief executive of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. “But I applaud her comments of getting measured and attempting to bring individuals with each other.”

Other individuals have noted that Ms. Krewson has been in office only 5 months, and is overseeing fallout from a judge’s ruling on a shooting that occurred six years ago. “We do not believe the mayor is accountable for the Stockley verdict in any way,” stated an editorial in The St. Louis American, a newspaper serving the city’s African-American community, which went on to encourage her to “pay interest to the message” of protesters.

Ms. Krewson has been noticeably a lot more measured in her statements than Missouri’s governor, Eric Greitens, a Republican, who place the National Guard on standby and wrote on Facebook that if “you break a window, you are going to be behind bars.” But she appeared alongside her acting police chief, Lawrence O’Toole, when he asserted that his officers “owned tonight” soon after producing dozens of arrests when windows have been broken downtown.

Ms. Krewson later criticized officers who had been reported to have chanted “Whose streets? Our streets!,” a phrase typically invoked by protesters, after a night of protests and arrests. But Ms. Krewson also mentioned that, more than all, the police had “done an excellent job.”

Jeff Roorda, business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, which endorsed Ms. Krewson and represents rank-and-file officers, mentioned his members were “colossally disappointed” in the mayor’s rhetoric about the acquittal. “I feel she’s been overly sympathetic to a misguided cause,” Mr. Roorda stated.

Ms. Krewson suggested that her strategy — one particular embraced neither by protesters nor police officers — was in truth an asset in these fractious instances. “I do comprehend each sides of this road,” she said.

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