Activist Warns: Return of Warm Weather to St. Louis Could Mean Violence

Paul Hampel, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 24, 2015

A leader of a community outreach group warned fact-finders for a federal civil rights agency Monday that warm weather could spark more street violence in lingering resentment of police shootings.

“As St. Louis walks into this next warm season, and it’s right around the corner, we’re not ready for what’s going to come out of our neighborhoods,” said James Clark, vice president of the nonprofit organization Better Family Life.

“This is going to be a very, very challenging time in our community as it relates to crime and violence. Once this weather breaks, there are going to be challenges for the police officers. How the police are going to manage it–my prayers are with them.”

Clark participated in one of several panels addressing the Missouri Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. It is examining police use of force relating to race or color.

The commission is an independent, bipartisan agency that advises the president and Congress on civil rights matters. It took an active interest here after the shooting of a black teen, Michael Brown, by a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9.

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Joining Clark on a panel of activists earlier in the day were Charli Cooksey, with the Young Citizen’s Council of St. Louis; J. Alfredo Chavez, with Latinos en Axion St. Louis; David Nehrt-Flores, with Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates; and the Rev. Traci Blackmon, with Christ the King Church in Florissant.

Chavez said that Latinos are the victims of racial profiling more often than statistics indicate, because of the way police tally stops.

“When they stop you, they don’t put you as Latino or Hispanics. They put you as a white,” he asserted.

He also alleged that officials are quick to deport Latinos after minor traffic stops. “They don’t take us to jail. They deport us. They take us out of here. They don’t care about the separation of families,” Chavez complained.

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The committee plans a follow-up meeting in Kansas City later this year, after which it will issue findings and recommendations.

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