ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KPLR) – African American leaders from North St. Louis County moved to flex their political muscle Tuesday with the formation of a coalition within the Democratic Party. However they minced no words over their dissatisfaction with how some established politicians have failed to respond to their community concerns.
St. Louis County Council Chair Hazel Erby pointed to the ongoing debate over the Normandy School District, the current concerns regarding the police shooting of teenager Mike Brown in Ferguson, a lack of jobs in the area and racial profiling by police.
“We’re tired of a lack of respect,” she said after explaining that letters and calls to Missouri’s Governor from municipal leaders had gone unanswered.
Berkeley Mayor Ted Hoskins complained no action has occurred to replace St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch with a special prosecutor for the Mike Brown shooting investigation.
The newly formed coalition, named after civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer of Mississippi, will be a 501C-4 organization and will support and oppose candidates as well as ballot issues. Erby said the group was not ready to indicate whether it will take a stand in the ongoing race for St. Louis County Executive.
Democratic nominee Steve Stenger is a member of the St. Louis County Council. He defeated the first African American to serve as County Executive, Charlie Dooley in the August primary. Republican nominee Rick Stream is a Missouri State Representative.
Community leader the Rev. B.T. Rice said he believes African Americans must have a “sense of loyalty to the (Democratic) party even though we differ.” But he also noted it was a mistake for the party to take them for granted.
Stenger did not comment today on the potential rift within his political party. Instead, he issued a statement accusing opponent Stream of being “too extreme” for county voters based on votes cast in the Missouri Legislature.
Stream said he favors special prosecutors in instances of police shootings. “It would be somebody who was independent and I think, in the public’s view, it would be somebody who is fair,” he said. As far as current Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, Stream said “I’m not saying he should step aside, but I think a lot of people would feel a lot more comfortable if he did, certainly in the African American community.”
Rev. Rice noted he did not think a special prosecutor would make much difference in the outcome of the Mike Brown shooting case. “The officer is protected by the law. And if that officer says, ‘my life was threatened,’ the law gives him some leeway to use force.”