After more than two weeks of protesting the Jason Stockley verdict in the streets, in malls and in business districts, protest organizers implemented a different tactic Sunday. They’re encouraging political engagement as well.
Demonstrators gathered at Wohl Community Center in north St. Louis Sunday afternoon to register voters.
State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. told a crowd of a few hundred people that the protests won’t end, but it’s time to put a new tool in place.
“Today is a different type of action. We’ve been able to affect the economy in different parts of St. Louis and St. Louis County.” Franks said. "We’ll continue to do that. But one of the other things we need to do is uplifting, empowering and educating our economically distressed communities and our black communities. We have to do that.”
Franks said part of the reason for engaging politically is to make sure they create their own narrative around who the protesters are and what their goals are. He said the real causes of crime is lack of education, lack of jobs and resources. If the protesters want to change that, then it’s time to register voters and to talk about what’s on the ballot.
“If you think about the politicians and you think about the way we’re able to affect the police department with certain votes — we have a half a cent sales tax (to fund the police department) right now, and that’s an issue,” Franks said.
“It ties right into the Stockley case. We talk about abuse of power, we talk about needing the police department to work for its community — when we can educate and empower the community on how the police department works and what we can do about it, that’s what it’s about,” he said.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson found Stockley, a white former police officer, not guilty of first-degree murder Sept. 15 in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man.
After an orientation, protesters divided into groups of four or five and were assigned a few blocks to canvas. In addition to voter registration paperwork, each group was given information about SLATE, the city’s job agency, and the Urban League’s Save our Son’s economic empowerment program.
Nicole Greer of Creve Coeur was part of a group assigned a section of the Penrose Place neighborhood.
She said she wanted to participate to help increase voter turnout.
“Currently it’s a very small percentage of people that vote, so that tells me that our elected officials are not a true representation of our population,” Greer said.
When she and her daughter knocked on doors, Greer introduced herself as a protester and also asked what people thought of the demonstrations.
One man said he supported them, but was upset that he almost wasn’t able to buy his daughter clothes because the store at the Galleria shut down Saturday due to protests.
Protest organizers also encouraged the demonstrators-turned-canvassers to let people know that people who were convicted of felons can vote, as long they are finished with probation.
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