ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – With St. Louis City Hall surrounded by police and the bomb squad, Downtown St. Louis was at a near standstill Tuesday morning. More than 700 workers were displaced from City Hall, including Board of Aldermen members who were forced to conduct a meeting in a nearby park.
City workers and others looking to do government business arrived downtown to find streets blocked and City Hall surrounded.
“They were running yellow tape around city hall and they said, ‘Folks, we’ve got city hall closed right now,” Supply Division employee Stephen Gregali said.
Alderman Joe Vaccaro had a similar experience.
“We were getting ready to pull in the lot and they stopped us and started taping everything off. “
For the Board of Aldermen, this happened on the wrong day. Tuesday was the day to swear in new and re-elected members from the election earlier this month. The city charter does not allow for the event to be rescheduled, so they had to find a way to act.
“There’s absolutely no way no matter what happens, you’ve gotta follow the rules,” Alderman Freeman Bosley, Sr. said. “And if we don’t follow them, nobody else will.”
So they went to a park across the street to hold their meeting. Aids had to be sent to the Board of Elections to get new paperwork on those being sworn in because the originals were stuck inside City Hall. But, a few minutes later than planned, the outdoor meeting was held.
“It will definitely make it a memorable swearing in ceremony, Alderwoman Megan Green said.
Jack Coater, being sworn in for the first time, agreed.
‘This is a disappointing situation; it would be disappointing in any building. Basically I’m most concerned with those first responders dealing with the situation. As you can see, government can function anywhere as long as we’ve got a park and a quorum,” he said.
The sudden rush of people in the streets wasn’t bad news for everyone. At the Mississippi Mud coffee shop on Pine, Katherine Schlimpart saw a sudden burst of business. IN fact it was one of the busiest days of the year.
“Somebody just came in kind of freakin’ out, saying, ‘We all got kicked out!’ Then it kind of got crazy in here. We kind of had a line out the door and it was kind of fun, but scary.”
Among the customers, Mayor Francis Slay, who took calls from a table inside for a time. Later in the morning, the city’s top official was still shaking his head at the bizarre situation.
“It’s disturbing that people are out there that want to do something like this. They want to agitate, they want to disrupt, and certainly want to cause some concern. But as you can see, we’re undeterred. We’re undaunted.”
City Hall re-opened about 12:30 Tuesday afternoon.