This weekend is going to be a busy one for the City. The Cardinals, Blues, and Rams will be hosting games. Monday is a holiday for many people. I look forward to everyone having a great time - and victories for the home teams.
The region is also going to be the site of several activities associated with the protests held for the past two months in St. Louis County, and, for the past two nights, in a city neighborhood.
Although I have been closely involved in conversations with federal, state, and county officials, and with members of the faith and civil rights communities, I have deferred to Governor Jay Nixon, and County executive Charlie Dooley to talk publicly about things going on in Ferguson.
With protests on South Grand over the past two nights, though, it is appropriate for me to get involved.
The time has come for people who are pushing for change to meet with the government agencies that can lead change to find common ground, to find solutions to problems, and to identify a way forward for our region.
How could we move our region forward? With some commonsense changes to governance, police practices, and targeted investments to address racial disparities.
All St. Louisans should be treated equally under the law, and be able to trust the police departments that serve and protect them.
All St. Louisans should have a government that works for them, and has the ability to provide effective services efficiently.
All St. Louisans should be able to prepare themselves to get jobs that pay living wages, with careers limited only by their own ambition and talent.
All St. Louisans should be able to send their kids to good schools with teachers who care.
We can be a national model of how to address these challenges.
There needs to be an inclusive, permanent entity empowered by government, the business community, and the wider community to direct change in how we live together, how we prepare our children for jobs, and how those jobs are created. You can call it the Ferguson Commission or anything you like. But, it needs the authority of the governor and the sanction of the president.
And there needs to be major state and federal investment in north county and contiguous parts of north St. Louis. I do not mean promises of assistance or appropriations to be determined later, but hard dollars invested right now. The state and federal governments spent $500 million over a very short time in Joplin. I'd argue that a fraction of that investment in the St. Louis region right now is at least as compelling a need.
How could this come together? It can happen through negotiations between organizers of the protests and representatives of the federal, state and local governments. That is not the only way. But, it is a way that I now suggest.
There have been protests for weeks. Some of them have been peaceful and the sorts of actions that are constitutionally protected and, even, good for a community.
There have also been violent protests that have no place in any community. Here in the City, we will safeguard the rights to the first sort and we will deal quickly and thoroughly with the second sort.
I have asked every protest leader and protest ally I have spoken to disavow the violent acts of a few agitators. Support the protest; disavow the violence. Walk away from it.
I commend Chief Dotson and his officers for their restraint. I also commend them for their professionalism. But, I tell the residents of St. Louis, the Metropolitan Police Department will have no tolerance for violent actions undertaken by a few agitators.