On Wednesday, January 25, the Public Safety Committee of the St. Louis Board of Alderman resolved to hold a public hearing with the FBI and local police to demand accountability around the violent, militarized raids on the Uhuru Movement in North St. Louis last summer.
The public hearing was decided upon during a discussion on the adoption of the “Dred Scott City of Refuge” Sanctuary City resolution introduced by Ward 18 Alderman Jesse Todd, followed by supporting statements from several community leaders and members. A recording of this meeting is available on the City’s YouTube channel.
The “Dred Scott City of Refuge” resolution is modeled on successful Sanctuary City resolutions adopted by municipalities across the U.S. that pledge non-cooperation by local governments with federal immigration raids. The “Dred Scott” resolution calls on St. Louis to pledge non-cooperation with the FBI or other federal agency targeting “black community organizers and members for charges stemming from work for the betterment and upliftment of their community.”
The St. Louis Police Department cooperated with the FBI raids against leaders of the well-known North City Black Power Blueprint program which has built a farmers market, community garden, a basketball court and black women’s Doula trainings. This included a raid on the home of Uhuru Movement founder Omali Yeshitela, 81 years old. The raids sparked outrage from members of the community who spoke out in the Public Safety meeting.
Alderwoman Marlene Davis from the 19th Ward suggested strengthening the resolution and postponing the vote in order to hold a public hearing to include representatives from the FBI and local police. She said she wants to “get what we need upfront in a very serious way. I want to talk to them… There needs to be some accountability to this issue and I think that we’re the ones who can get that done.”
Alderwoman Davis shared her personal experience with the Uhuru Movement’s community development that came under attack by the FBI. “For those members of this committee who are not close to that north side area… all the work that is being done there is extremely well done. I stop there [“One Africa! One Nation! Farmers Market] in the summer almost every Saturday. I am so excited when I stay for the young people’s performances. I support what is going on there. They’re doing great work.” Speaking to Alderman Todd and the Uhuru members in attendance, she said, “You all have great entertainment. You practice healthy eating and living. I was like a 5-year-old when the gentleman was there from his farm with the chickens. Nowhere else in this city are we trying to teach children these kinds of things.”
The Committee decided to adopt Alderwoman Davis’ proposal. Committee Chair Alderman Joseph Varacco of Ward 23 directed the Clerk to call for St. Louis Police Chief Robert Tracy and the new interim Public Safety Director Charles Coyle to attend next week’s Public Safety Committee meeting and for a request to be made to the local head of the FBI to attend as well.
In New York City, Councilman Charles Barron is preparing to put forward a similar resolution for adoption by the New York City Council.
The St. Louis “Dred Scott City of Refuge” Sanctuary City resolution reads:
The Dred Scott City of Refuge Resolution for the City of St. Louis, MO
Whereas, Dred and Harriet Scott sought and were denied refuge from enslavement in the City of St. Louis in 1846 and were told they had no rights any white man had to respect;
Whereas, the City of St. Louis and its police department worked together with the FBI to conduct unjust, violent, military-style raids on homes and offices of the African People’s Socialist Party and Uhuru Movement on July 29, 2022;
Whereas, the raids militarily occupied the most impoverished neighborhood of St. Louis, threatening Uhuru Movement programs fighting gentrification and building economic and political power in the black working class communities;
Whereas, the African People’s Socialist Party was targeted because it has relentlessly fought for the liberation of Africa and African people for the past 50 years;
Whereas, the FBI raids on the Uhuru Movement posed a threat to the African community’s hard-won democratic right to participate in elections in their own interests;
Whereas, African people have a right to petition the United Nations to investigate the Genocide Convention as it applies to the conditions of African people in the U.S. and the “original sin” of slavery and colonialism in this country;
Whereas, African people have the right to freedom of speech, association and assembly including public statements of dissent regarding the official position of the U.S. on the Russia-Ukraine war;
Whereas, the City of St. Louis has consciously attacked and destroyed African communities over the years in order to promote business and prosperity for others;
Whereas, the City of St. Louis destroyed the thriving neighborhood of Mill Creek Valley, carried out “let it rot” programs that kept resources from going to black neighborhoods and worked with federal agents to dump toxic chemicals from the rooftops of public housing projects;
Whereas, the brutal conditions faced by African people in the US continue today where 1 in 3 African men born in the year 2000 will be imprisoned in his lifetime;
Whereas, in the the United States which has among the highest rates of maternal mortality in “industrialized” countries, African women die during childbirth at a rate 3 times higher than that of as white women and in some states up to 7 times higher;
Whereas, the average white family has 8 times the wealth of the average African family;
Whereas over the years St. Louis has been known for resistance and struggle for the interests and upliftment of the black community;
Whereas millions of African people in the 1960s struggling for basic human rights and economic and political power over their lives faced the effects of the COINTELPRO program of the FBI which carried out assassinations, political imprisonment, slander and harm;
Whereas Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey, along with W.E.B. DuBois, James Baldwin, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, and others such as civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo and American Indian leader Leonard Peltier, were targeted, threatened, surveilled, imprisoned and/or assassinated by the FBI with the complicity of the local police departments;
Whereas the police murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown in the suburb of Ferguson in 2014 sparked widespread resistance to longstanding police violence and was seen around the world;
Whereas, FBI files on the murder of Ferguson activist Darren Seals and others reveal that the local police worked with the FBI to target and many say to murder him;
Whereas, the FBI worked with St. Louis police in arresting Uhuru Movement member Themba Tshibanda on bogus “terrorist threat” charges;
Whereas we recognize that a prosperous, active African community of St. Louis is beneficial and contributes to the well-being of all residents of this city;
Therefore be it resolved that the City of St. Louis will be a Sanctuary City, in which the St. Louis police department and city government will refuse to cooperate with the FBI and any federal agency to attack black community organizers and members for charges stemming from work for the betterment and upliftment of their community;
St. Louis will become a City of Refuge for African people struggling for social justice in solidarity with sanctuary programs for Indigenous/Mexican people, immigrants and others seeking a safe haven to uplift their communities.
Therefore, this resolution repudiates the denial of refuge for Dred and Harriet Scott and the ongoing notion that “black people have no rights which the white man is bound to respect.”
This resolution redeems the City’s relationship to the African community, vindicates the blood-drenched struggles of African people for the democratic right to vote, to create self-determination programs, to dissent against injustice, to exercise our right to freedom of speech and political assembly, and to take our views before the United Nations.