Protestors Disrupt Mo. Legislature Opening Ceremony
Photo by Bridjes O’Neil
Protestors disrupted the opening ceremony of the Missouri Legislature at noon today, after holding a die-in around the rotunda of the state capitol.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder quickly ordered the entire gallery, or public seating, to be cleared. While Missouri Highway Patrol officers escorted protestors out of the gallery, they chanted “no justice, no peace” and then started singing, “We shall overcome.” They continued to march and protest throughout the capitol building.
In a news release earlier today, Don’t Shoot – a coalition of nearly 50 St. Louis-area organizations formed in response to the police shooting of Michael Brown –called on lawmakers to address systemic problems surrounding police practices in communities of color As the Missouri Legislature kicked off its 2015 session.
“In addition to seeking justice for the Brown family, lawmakers must deliver fixes for the ongoing crisis of police-on-Black crime,” said Michael T. McPhearson, co-chair of the Don’t Shoot Coalition and executive director for Veterans For Peace. “While some of these fixes must come from the federal and county levels, this legislative session we’re laying out what can be done at the state level.”
Don’t Shoot promotes a vision of overall policing that:
• Is based on the concept that the role of police is to defend the safety and constitutional rights of the citizens they serve, and in which the first priority is preservation of life.
• Engages the best and most progressive police practices, meeting the highest standards for professionalism in the field.
• Reflects community priorities and shift the fundamental power dynamic between the broader community and those it assigns to protect them and keep the peace.
To this end, the Coalition outlined three key legislative priorities as first steps at the state level to ensure police accountability:
• Racial Profiling: Missouri’s racial profiling bill must be strengthened to include pedestrian stops in addition to vehicle stops, and involve repercussions for police departments that have demonstrated patterns of racial profiling or failed to comply with the law.
• Restoration of Rights: Missouri law must be revised to allow individuals with felony convictions on their records to serve on juries, as well as other reforms that preclude such citizens from obtaining employment or participating in other aspects of civic life.
• Expanded Police In-Service Training: Missouri’s training requirements for officers should include mandatory in-service training on topics such as anti-racism, use of force, interacting with people with mental illness, unarmed combat, responding to sexual assault, conflict resolution and other critical issues.
Although some legislators have already introduced legislation that touches on these topics, the Don’t Shoot Coalition intends to partner with legislative sponsors to ensure that Missouri passes effective police reform measures.
“The role of police is to defend the safety and constitutional rights of the citizens they serve, and the first priority in that role must be the preservation of life,” said Denise Lieberman, co-chair of the Don’t Shoot Coalition and a senior attorney for Advancement Project. “These policies are rooted in this concept, and they reflect priorities from the broader community. This session we will be working on the ground to support legislation that advances these remedies.”