OPEN LETTER: ST. LOUIS BUSINESS OWNERS STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH STOCKLEY PROTESTERS
Since the release of the Stockley verdict, there has been a lot of representation as to the feelings of small business owners. Some of these representations have been on the part of the media, or through individuals on social media, but very little has been conveyed through our own thoughts and words. We, a group of like-minded business owners from St. Louis County and City, would like to take the opportunity to give our point of view.

We believe that the centuries of systemic racism and police brutality have been criminal, though our legal system has not recognized them as such. We therefore stand in solidarity with the goals of Black Lives Matter and the protesters as a whole.

As business owners of this community, we do not wish to be used as a tactic to distract people from the goals of the protesters. The damage that we have or potentially could sustain during these demonstrations is a small price to pay in the fight for justice.

Although we do not condone vandalism of any nature, we understand it. We recognize the feelings that come from generations of oppression. We understand how those feelings could bring residents of our community to conclude that there is no other way to be heard. While we believe in personal responsibility, we believe that deeper responsibility lies with our local governments and all those who have turned a blind eye to abuse. We must all take our share of the responsibility.

We recognize that glass can be replaced, that profit is not everything and can eventually be recovered, and that fear of these problems heading to our business districts or our shops is fleeting. We further recognize that lives cannot be replaced, families do not eventually recover, and the fear of being murdered in the streets will haunt certain residents of our community forever.

Due to the police targeting of local businesses who spoke out during the Ferguson uprising as well as in recent days, it is difficult to put our faith for protection in city officials or police departments. We see police escalating tensions on the streets and then denying responsibility for the results. We see our innocent patrons caught up, brutalized and arrested in the Central West End, Loop and downtown. When media is arrested for doing their jobs, how do we tell our staff they are safe doing theirs? It is not at all clear that police have our best interests at heart when they are preoccupied with macho attempts to “own” the streets. Frankly, we have reason to wonder if we have more to fear from the police officers than from a small handful of vandals.

We therefore support the call of people of color, #StopKillingUs. We hope civic leadership will heed this call. We will support them if and when they do.

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