On Saturday April 9, a St. Louis City police officer suffered minor injuries trying to make an arrest near the Metrolink station on Delmar Boulevard. The suspect, a 21-year old adult male, was taken into custody. Charges were taken under advisement and the man was released. Local media has portrayed this violent incident as a result of black youth taking over the Loop, yet the suspect who injured the officer was an adult male. Days after the incident, University City Council members under pressure from Delmar business owners, drafted a new ordinance to limit standing on city sidewalks.
Yes! You read that correctly.
University City Bill 9112, better known as the "Obstructing or interfering with use of the sidewalks and streets," will make it unlawful for anyone to "block" public sidewalks located anywhere in University City, Missouri. Those arrested and charged with the crime of "blocking the sidewalk," can be fined up to $1,000 per offense. The Police Department has gone on record with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that, "no warnings will be issued."
Supporters of the ordinance, especially businesspeople in the Delmar Loop business district, say the ordinance will curb loitering and youth gatherings. However, since the ordinance provides absolutely no enforcement guidelines, opponents are sure it will be unfairly used against black pedestrians specifically targeting black youth. Furthermore, University City already has a list of ordinances that protect the businesses from loitering, larceny, noise, assault and aggravation of their customers. The fact remains, police already had enough power to arrest, ticket and charge the suspects who injured St. Louis City police officer on April 9 but they didn't. Bill 9112 was crafted to signal Loop business owners that University City Council is listening; unfortunately, it does nothing to solve the problems which include needing additional police and better understanding of public management in an urban city.
I need you to contact the University City Council and the Mayor today. Politely tell them to kill the discriminatory ordinance bill #9112, which will make standing on the sidewalks in University City a crime. Understand they might express how this law is only targeted at those teens who "block" the sidewalks and cause trouble; however, remain vigilant and educate them that University City Police already have laws to address real crimes in the Loop:
9.04.010 Assault of a law enforcement officer.
9.04.020 False reports.
9.04.030 Resisting or interfering with arrest (or detention).
9.04.050 Failure to comply with (an officer).
9.04.060 Interference with city officers and employees.
9.04.070 Interference with duties of firefighter.
9.04.090 Refusal to identify as a witness.
9.04.100 Concealing an offense.
9.08.010 Affrays (fighting in public).
9.08.015 Elder abuse in the third degree.
9.08.020 Assault in the third degree.
9.08.040 Disturbing the peace.
9.08.050 Unlawful assembly.
9.08.080 Drinking in public places prohibited.
9.08.090 Public drunkenness.
9.08.100 Urinating or defecating in public.
9.08.120 Possession or control of a controlled substance.
9.08.180 Sexual misconduct.
Mayor - Shelley Welsch..... Mayor@ucitymo.org or 314-505-8606
Ward 1 Council Members
Terry Crow..... firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or 314-918-0045, ext 2
Stephen Kraft..... firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-863-1136
Ward 2 Council Members
L. Michael Glickert..... email@example.com or 314-863-1812
Lynn Ricci..... firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-725-9090
Ward 3 Council Members
Byron Price..... email@example.com or 314-726-2953
Arthur Sharp..... firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-721-5954
If you are available to speak against the law, come to University City City Hall, 6801 Delmar Blvd. 5th Floor, Monday May 9th, 6:30pm and submit your name to speak before the vote of Bill 9112. Citizens who show up are allowed to speak for 3 minutes. It's critical you explain how you understand there's a problem; however, we must remind our elected officials that the solution is not criminalizing the public with $1000 fines.
Lastly, University City prides itself as a progressive city. So I need progressives to express their disgust of these kinds of anti-sitting, anti-standing and anti-laying down laws. They do nothing but allow the police to ticket, harass and silence citizens who wish to use public sidewalks as a forum for democracy!
P.S. Feel free to use the following template and email to every Council member. Copy and paste the following emails:
Mayor@ucitymo.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Dear Mayor and University City Council:
It has come to my attention that University City is prepared to pass a law that will limit my and others ability to walk, stroll or stand freely on the sidewalks in University City; including the shop-filled sidewalks in the business Loop district.
Do not pass this law.
Recognizing there are recent safety concerns in the Loop, I understand this law is an attempt to curb the overcrowding of sidewalks. However, my personal concerns are that Bill 9112 will be used to unfairly criminalize and discriminate against black youth walking, shopping and yes, standing on the sidewalks in the Loop.
I ask you vote no on Bill 9112 and direct city police to enforce the current University City laws that target theft, violence, noise, panhandling and harassment directed at Loop customers. See ordinances 9.08.040, 9.04.050, 9.08.045, 9.08.050, 9.08.060, and 9.08.210. Standing, meeting my friends and sharing conversations on the sidewalks of the Loop, is what made the Loop what it is today. Sadly, if this law does pass, you must remove the entire St. Louis Walk of Fame, since it encourages people to "stand still" and "block" the sidewalks while tourists read those stars--a clear violation of ordinance 9112.
Ticketing black youth (or any citizen) for standing in University City will solve nothing. It will only add more racial tension between St. Louis County and St. Louis City. Lastly, as a frequent customer in the Loop, if this discriminatory law does pass, I might find myself standing in a different city spending my money.