A St. Louis community activist told a civil rights commission that he is worried that rising temperatures will bring more violence in a region that saw widespread riots last year after Michael Brown’s death and is becoming more “volatile.”
“As St. Louis walks into this next warm season, and it’s right around the corner, we’re not ready for what’s going to come out of our neighborhoods,” James Clark, the “vice president of the nonprofit organization Better Family Life,” reportedly warned civil rights fact-finders on Monday. “This is going to be a very, very challenging time in our community as it relates to crime and violence. Once this weather breaks, there are going to be challenges for the police officers. How the police are going to manage it — my prayers are with them.”
According to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report, “Clark participated in one of several panels addressing the Missouri Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights,” which is “examining police use of force relating to race or color” in the St. Louis area.
The commission, as the Post-Dispatch notes, took an “active interest” in the St. Louis area after the deaths of Michael Brown and Kajieme Powell last year. Brown confronted Officer Darren Wilson before Brown was shot and killed and Powell charged at an officer with a knife before ultimately being shot and killed. Other panelists complained that officers in the area were too quick to deport illegal immigrant Latinos “after minor traffic stops” and accused officers of not caring “about the separation of families.” Another panelist accused officers of being employed to “tax” low-income drivers to raise revenue.
According to the Post-Dispatch, Clark “established himself in poor black communities for his work with at-risk youths, helping them to find jobs and social services, such as counseling.” He reportedly said that Brown’s death “emboldened the black population.”
“I have been telling St. Louis officials as early as 2011 that we’re not ready for what is to come,” Clark reportedly told the commission. “Things are getting more volatile in the community.”
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar reportedly said that the “political will to discuss these issues wasn’t there until Michael Brown’s death.”
After the media fanned the racial flames in Ferguson after Michael Brown’s death by trying to perpetuate the mythical “gentle giant” narrative, Ferguson saw widespread rioting and violence that destroyed many businesses owned by working-class black Americans and further depressed the region’s economy.