I can’t believe I have to address this again. This seems to be the sentiment from many people in my city, but this is where we’re at. After Ferguson so many of us said never again. The media loves to eat up the violence in St. Louis. I hate how they also seem to enjoy leaving out vital elements of what’s really happening, but I guess that’s why writers and artists exist, to get the real story out.
There has been an obvious issue with overuse of police force in St. Louis for some time. But it is not cut and dry. The police are not the evil bad guys that the people have to destroy. The police are people too. I have ties to both sides. I’ve never tried to hide that.
So when I went to the Loop last night, seeing the destruction caused by violent opportunists I was pretty pissed. Protestors are peaceful, opportunists are criminals. I wish the media would stop lumping them into the same group and editing out the destruction that has been caused by some individuals who use an important issue to take advantage of a neighborhood.
The Loop is the hottest spot in St. Louis. I don’t care what anyone says. Yeah we’re a baseball town and the stadium is cool, sure The Hill has the best damn Italian food you will ever taste, but The Loop is the cultural Mecca of this city. It runs through where the county meets the city and houses historical landmarks like Blueberry Hill and The Tivoli. It’s one of the few areas where culture and diversity flourish.
Walking down Delmar you’ll see street performers and pass people of every damn ethnicity you can imagine. It is my favorite place to be. It has been a home for my books, my songs; my ever growing love of the human connection.
Crime happens everywhere. Sure sometimes there’s a mugging or a car gets broken into, but on the whole The Loop is welcoming. Now I get frustration and anger, I support protests and the fight to protect freedom for everyone, what I DO NOT support is ignorance: unnecessary violence and destruction.
Walking the strip last night, my fiancé and I passed boarded up windows, closed shops, and even got to speak with a waiter who was beaten and robbed by these so-called “protesters.” We need to separate the organized activists from the opportunists because as long as people lump them together, support for honest causes will not grow.
What does smashing windows and stealing from local businesses do to help anyone? We saw it in Ferguson and it happened again. Robbing a small business is robbing yourself. If you want to complain about high prices and chain stores that don’t care about anything but money, blame acts like these.
This is my home. I am not leaving. No amount of stupidity will keep me from living my life and frequenting the places that I hold dear, and I damn sure will not see The Loop smashed up again. We said never again after Ferguson. Three years later and we’re right back here.
Despite the pain we have all suffered lately, there is some light to shed. Because the media doesn’t feel it important to point out the good, I have to share the REAL spirit of this place. After Ferguson, after North city and South city were busted up, the communities came together. People from all walks of life, artists and dreamers helped board up smashed windows and began to paint beautiful murals and create something greater than any of the destruction that can be caused.
There was a book about it. A book that deserved a lot more love from the publishing industry than it got.
As an author I find books to be healing. Art helps to bring us back together even when we feel we are at our most divided. As angry as I want to be. I walked Delmar and stood in awe of the new paintings created on the boards that covered shattered windows. That’s one thing about us here, we don’t let anything stop us.
My fiancé and I ate at El Maguey (one of the best Mexican places with the best service). When we got there a BLM member was arguing with the waiter that he needs a discount for being black. For real. I observed and thought: I didn’t hear the entire conversation, maybe there’s more to this.
He was belligerent when he left, but it didn’t seem to faze the waiter. Our waiter was cordial and took great care of us. I used to wait tables, so I know how people can be (and try to remember that one bad attitude does not an entire culture make). I’m always cool to the people serving me because I remember how nasty some guests are.
Because of this kindness he opened up to me and my fiancé about what happened over the weekend. We sat outside, next to my favorite mural covering a smashed window and he detailed how he was beaten and robbed by the “protesters” after they busted the restaurant window. This man just came to work, like any other day. He did his job, and then was attacked just for being there.
Senseless. Horrific. Disgusting. These are the words I think of when I think of acts like this.
Here is a Mexican man, an immigrant who speaks some English, a minority, and he is now out $500 because an angry mob of people didn’t use their heads. Needless to say he got a large tip from an author and her artsy fiancé. If I were Steven King I would’ve given him the money he lost, but unfortunately we only had so much to give.
What really hits me is that that man has probably suffered shock and potentially PTSD. His face is healing, but what about the internal wounds. I don’t want him to judge the African American population of this area based on that incident because I know so much better from the black community here. I don’t want him to think that his skin color, or bilingual status will hinder him.
We are better than this. I can’t say it enough. We are better, and we have to do better.