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Examining police violence in St. Louis before major changes

Earlier this month, I published an article on Truthout examining the continuing resistance to police violence in St. Louis. The article explains the roots of the latest uprising, the cable news blackout that has kept most Americans from learning about it, escalating police responses to continuing protests, and reforms introduced in the city's Board of Alders that could, if adopted, limit future surveillance by local police. It observes:

Rather than reflect an isolated occurrence, police violence responding to protests (protests that were, of course, sparked in response to police violence) constitute an apparent pattern and practice. On Sunday, September 24, police responding to protests downtown not only arrested more than 120 people en masse, but also meted out seemingly random violence. Police assaulted -- and viciously injured -- not only dozens of civilians protesting police violence, but also an undercover police officer among them, as well as journalists. Victims of the assault included an active duty Air Force officer who was not participating in the protests but merely lived nearby and was reportedly "kicked in the face, blinded by pepper spray and dragged away."

Reacting to mounting public alarm, the office of Mayor Lyda Krewson stated, "The allegations are disturbing." City prosecutor Kim Gardner proposed to local policymakers that her office be given independent authority to investigate and prosecute police misconduct. As Gardner argued, "Both the community and police deserve an objective, fair and transparent investigation, and it is no longer acceptable for police to be essentially investigating themselves."

My Truthout article also examines the implications of the latest uprising for social media. It notes:

In 2011, Silicon Valley triumphantly claimed that its tools advanced democracy by helping social movements across the Middle East destabilize a series of dictatorships (most -- but not all -- of which relapsed to authoritarian rule after brief flirtations with democracy). More recently, a continuing stream of police murders captured no video and shared on social media has forced national attention to systemic racism despite its long and conspicuous omission from the mainstream policy discourse....

Beyond the crisis in policing and civil rights in St. Louis and its implications for local policy, the 2017 uprising may also have demonstrated the limits of social media. Despite a raging controversy extending for weeks across a major US city, cable news outlets -- including those dedicated to 24-hour news, several which established a ubiquitous presence during the 2014 uprising -- have not covered either the 2017 uprising or the continuing abuses that have inspired it.

Thankfully, just a few weeks later, a federal judge intervened, sensibly ruling that St. Louis police may no longer declare an “unlawful assembly” to end demonstrations by people “engaged in expressive activity, unless the persons are acting in concert to pose an imminent threat to use force or violence or to violate a criminal law with force or violence.”

While it's comforting that St. Louis police are now less likely to use chemical weapons, the movement to end police violence unfortunately has yet to achieve our broader goals. I'm proud of activists from my hometown continuing to force police accountability to the fore of the local policy agenda!

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