St. Louis crackdown on environmental and social justice activists during World Agricultural Forum!
May 17, 2003
On Friday, May 16, the St. Louis Police Department supported by federal agents raided the Community Arts and Media Project (CAMP), and the Bolozone, a collective housing project. Fifteen activists were arrested in the Bolozone raid and three were arrested outside the CAMP building. The Bolozone housing collective was condemned and boarded up immediately. Concurrently St. Louis Police arrested nine bicyclists for "biking without a license." The charge was later changed to "obstructing the flow of traffic." A van carrying Biodev7 participants was stopped, searched and towed. The driver of the van, Sarah Bantz, a speaker at the Biodevastation conference was arrested. Many others have reported being stopped and questioned by police because they were biking or walking in groups and looked suspicious. Police also confiscated 20 bicycles, camping gear, puppets, construction materials, tools, circus equipment and many more items from CAMP and Bolozone.
[ CAMP raid | Bolozone raid | bicycling without a license | press conference | CAMP letter to the neighborhood | support CAMP ]
Throughout the day many of the arrested were released or bailed out by the community. Seven circus artists chose not to post bail and were released at 6 am on Saturday morning.
[ jail support ]
St. Louis Police Chief Mokwa tried to justify the police repression of peaceful dissent, by claiming that those arrested were planning violent attacks on the World Agricultural Forum. Mokwa based this accusation mainly on "weapons" found in the raid on the Bolozone housing collective, that is undergoing rehab work: a box of roofing nails, a bag of stones to build a retainer wall and three circus whips. As a "smoking gun" the police touted empty bottles they had stuffed with rags to present them as "molotov cocktails" and a lone slingshot.
[ St Louis' Finest Strike Again | corporate press account 1 | 2 ]
Leading up to the raids, police and corporate media had nourished fear and hysteria by claiming that "50,000 Seattle anarchists" were about to descend on St. Louis, whereas Biodev7 organizers estimated that about 300-2,000 would travel to the conference. The Police have been preparing the downtown area for protests. St. Louis police officers were issued new 220V tazer guns specifically for the World Agricultural Forum protests and wrote about looking forward to using them on protesters in an online discussion forum. [ 1 | 2 | 3 ] All posts pertaining to the WAF protests were later deleted by the moderator, after their content had been posted on the IMC newswire. [ 1 | 2 | 3 ]
The organizers of the Biodevastation7 conference are urging everyone to call the St. Louis Police Department and the Mayor demanding an end to the harassment of non-violent activists. The Green Party USA is asking for an apology from Mayor Slay. The ACLU is also asking for witnesses to contact them with details.
Despite the recent police harassment, Biodevastation7 participants and local activists remain determined to non-violently strive for peace and justice. To honor this commitment a "Rally for Safe Food and Family Farms" will be held Sunday, May 18th at Centenary Methodist Church.