After an hour of testimony by citizens speaking on the need for a civilian-led board to oversee St. Louis police, a hearing held at City Hall devolved into chaos and had to be canceled when protesters refused to allow police officers to testify.
The meeting was reported as going smoothly while members of the community and interested parties rose, one after the other, to speak on the need for a civilian-led board to act as a watchdog over police.
But when it came time for the officers to have their say, participants immediately began to get unruly and eventually the room erupted in a fifteen-minute spree of yelling, pushing, and name-calling in a hearing room that was already packed with people standing shoulder to shoulder.
While order was briefly restored, yelling began again, forcing Alderman Terry Kennedy—a supporter of the need for the citizen committee—to cancel the rest of the meeting.
Trouble started early in the meeting when some of the civilians in attendance objected to a rubber wristband being worn by police union representative and Missouri State Representative Jeff Roorda. The wristband had “I am Darren Wilson” emblazoned upon it. Darren Wilson was the police officer who shot and killed unarmed Michael Brown last year in Ferguson, MO.
Protesters claimed that Roorda was being purposefully provocative with the wristband, but Roorda countered that he had a First Amendment right to wear the band.
Roorda was also very vocal during the brief period of chaos as he criticized the unfairness of the situation.
“We spent the night hearing from anti-police radicals,” Roorda complained. “We hear from two police officers and he [Alderman Kennedy] lets the place go wild.”
The protesters accused Roorda of pushing a woman during the chaos in order to get closer to the aldermen at the dais, a charge the union rep denied. In fact, Roorda countered that he was being pushed and grabbed by civilians, and he was only trying to stay on his feet.
Various members of the community and activists in local anti-police groups spoke during the meeting. One woman, 27th Ward resident Rachel Jones, objected to the idea that members of the civilian watchdog board be required to have a certain level of education to be eligible to serve.
“His statement actually reminds me of something reminiscent of the Literacy Acts prior to 1964 voting act,” Jones said.
The creation of the civilian board was sponsored by Alderman Antonio French, an active participant in several of the riots in Ferguson.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.