Under the consent of Francis Slay, the Democratic Mayor of St. Louis, the police moved in to enforce the eviction of Occupy St. Louis from Kiener Plaza yesterday night. The occupiers attempted to stop the city from bringing an end to their peaceful assembly in downtown St. Louis by having lawyers file for an injunction against the city. The judge sided with Mayor Slay and within minutes of the decision the police began to make arrests and seize property.
About two dozen occupiers chose to stand their ground and remain in the plaza. Others stood on sidewalk outside of the park watching as police moved in to enforce a 10 pm curfew that the city all of a sudden decided it needed to enforce. (Occupy St. Louis began to camp in Kiener Plaza on October 1.)
Garbage trucks were brought in to destroy the tents, tarps, equipment and other items that remained in the plaza. Like with Boston, the city pit sanitation workers of the 99 percent against citizens, who had been out demonstrating in support of the 99 percent.
Occupy St. Louis posted the following statement:
On November 10, 2011 Occupy St Louis received notification from the city of St Louis that we have 24 hours to remove all structures and obey the city curfew laws before they would forcibly remove our non-violent occupation from Freedom Square (formerly known as Kiener Plaza). Since October 1st, we have maintained a peaceful occupation in this public space, founded on the principle that large corporations have too much influence in the actions of our government. Mayor Slay and his Senior Staff have once again validated this by bowing to pressure from the Downtown Partnership of St Louis to restrict our First Amendment Rights to peaceably assemble.
Anyone who reads the names of those who serve on the Partnership Board and the private interests those individuals represent will have no trouble understanding why the city could not tolerate the peaceful assembly in Kiener Plaza any longer [bold represents groups that were most likely against the occupation]:
Joe Ambrose, President, St. Louis Region, First Bank; Jeff Babinski, Vice President & General Manager, Lumiere Place Casino & Hotels; Vincent Bommarito, CEO, Tony’s Inc.; Zack Boyers, Vice Chair, US Bancorp CDC; Paul M. Brown, Partner, Thompson Coburn LLP; Jim Buford, President & CEO, Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis; Yvette Butler, Managing Director, Client Solutions Team, Wells Fargo Advisors LLC; William M. Carson, Vice President, Operations Strategy, McCormack Baron Salazar; Christine Chadwick, Executive Director, FOCUS St. Louis; Rodney Crim, Executive Director, St. Louis Development Corporation; Clark Davis, Vice Chairman, HOK Group, Inc.; Bill Dewitt III, President, St. Louis Cardinals; Nancy Droesch, Treasurer, Partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP; John Eilermann Jr., CEO & Chairman, McBride and Sons; Tom Etling, CEO, St. Patrick Center; Todd George, Treasurer for National Blues Museum, Spinnaker Real Estate; Tory Goldson, Partner, Bryan Cave LLP; Stacy Hastie, Chairman & CEO, Environmental Operations Inc.; Craig Heller, Managing Partner, Loftworks, LLC; Al Kent, IV, Office Managing Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP; Bruce Lindsey, Dean & E. Desmond Lee Professor of Community Collaboration, Washington University, College of Architecture & Graduate School of Urban Design; Mike McCarthy, CEO, St. Louis Blues; Tim McGowan, Principal, McGowan Brothers Development; Patricia Mercurio, President, Bank of America Missouri; Kevin Mowbray, President & Publisher, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Gordon Myers, Regional President, St. Louis Middle Market, US Bank; Melinda Nichols, VP Store Manager, Macy’s Downtown St. Louis, #660; Gordon Reel, Vice Chair, Asst. VP, Government & Legislative Affairs, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Michael V. Roberts Sr., Chairman, CEO, The Roberts Companies; Stephen A. Smith, President & CEO of The Lawrence Group Architects; John Sondag, President, AT&T Missouri; L. Cartan Sumner, Jr., Vice President, International Government Relations, Peabody Energy Corporation; Larry Thompson, General Manager & COO, Missouri Athletic Club; Sharon Tucci, President, Talent Plus; Henry Voges, Vice President, Jones Lang LaSalle; David N. Wakeman, Vice President, Energy Delivery, Ameren Missouri; Dorothy White-Coleman, Member/Manager, White Coleman & Associates; Jim Woodcock, Senior VP & Partner, Fleishman-Hillard; John Wuest, President & CEO, St. Louis Equity Fund; Douglas H. Yaeger, Secretary, Chairman, President & CEO, The Laclede Group; Maggie Campbell, President & CEO, Partnership for Downtown St. Louis; Antoinette Filla, Community Policing, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Dept; Richard C.D. Fleming, President & CEO, St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association; Daniel Isom, Chief of Police, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Dept; Mark Mantovani, President/CEO, Ansira; Waller McGuire, Executive Director, St. Louis Public Library; Jack Pohrer, Chairman, St. Louis Parking Co.; Lewis E. Reed, President, Board of Aldermen; Francis G. Slay, Mayor, City of St. Louis [emphasis added]
The statement put out by Occupy St. Louis further declared:
On November 10, 2011 Mayor Slay stated in his personal blog that the city would be creating a space for a 24/7 public demonstration. On November 9th, senior members of the Mayor’s staff attended our General Assembly to propose this space to us as a possible alternative to Freedom Square. This was not a proposal, but rather an ultimatum to Occupy St Louis. The City had already made up its mind on the course of action that it would be taking. This new space would not allow for tents or occupation, which we feel are a valid forms of political speech. This proposal was blocked by a consensus of our General Assembly. The General Assembly uses consensus as our decision making process. It allows for all participants to have an equal voice. Occupy St Louis maintains that just because one states they are using the consensus process, does not mean that they are actually using it.
This occupation was one of the stops on my Midwest Tour. It was one of the more memorable experiences simply because Kiener Plaza is an amphitheater with plenty of space to spread out a camp and also still have a significant area to hold rallies or meetings. (Firedoglake donated tarps and clothing, which probably were all piled into garbage trucks and destroyed illegitimately by the city.)
What I witnessed when I was there was how inviting and friendly occupiers were to the homeless. They allowed people who were not helping to grow the movement to stay with them. It almost seemed like the homeless were taking refuge because in other areas they usually were not able to setup a home (like a tent). It was very moving to see people reach out to people, who were angry, suffering and dealing with mental pain from being poor. After all, homeless people are some of the most dehumanized and marginalized members of the 99 percent.
In conclusion, this is but a reminder of what David Sirota argued recently—that American progressive cities are a myth. Occupy St. Louis is right to point to private interests serving on this Downtown St. Louis Partnership Board. They are right to single out how banks, real estate developers and other corporations played a role in encouraging Slay to evict the occupation. Slay is clearly captive to these entities, whose business and profits depend on the 1% gaining more control of the wealth in America.
One hopes this is not the end of Occupy St. Louis. Perhaps, they will look to occupations like Occupy Atlanta and begin to occupy foreclosed homes. Or, maybe they will find another tactic to use to keep the movement in St. Louis going. Whatever occupiers do (after bailing out everyone from jail), they will know where Mayor Slay and city officials stand: with the 1% who fears the rising tide of democracy.