When it comes to standing up to racial shakedowns, political leadership is in short supply in Missouri, as it is in other states. On January 9, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. (in photo), facing re-election, squared off against his Democratic opponent, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis. The event, sponsored by the state’s Martin Luther King Celebration Commission, revealed a disturbing acquiescence by the candidates to the radical Black Lives Matter. A co-emcee kicked things off by declaring: “Black lives matter. Period.” Once at the podium, Sen. Blunt, rather than offer a rebuke, responded: “Black lives matter – we do need to say that.” Kander proved even worse. And they aren’t the only politicians in the state to roll over.
Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a national movement that matters – in all the wrong ways. Two weeks ago National Legal and Policy Center examined the origins, goals and tactics of this nationwide network of radical black activists. BLM achieved liftoff in 2013 thanks primarily to the efforts of three females affiliated with a group called Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity. Their immediate goal was to discredit the decision that July by a Florida trial jury to acquit a white neighborhood anti-crime patrol leader, George Zimmerman, of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the February 2012 shooting death of a black teen, Trayvon Martin. All credible evidence indicated that Zimmerman, far from being a trigger-happy “vigilante,” was defending his life from Martin, who had violently attacked him. The campaign was geared toward a long-range goal: casting America as an irredeemably white-controlled racist society as part of a grab for power. Using such methods as blocking traffic, occupying college administrative offices and disrupting political speeches, BLM chapters have dramatized their case in ways that are both obnoxious and illegal.
The group’s coming-out party took place in August 2014 and the ensuing months in the northside St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. A white police officer in that community, Darren Wilson, who had been violently assaulted by an 18-year-old black male, Michael Brown, shot Brown to death. A St. Louis County grand jury, having reviewed voluminous evidence for three months, refused to indict Wilson for what clearly amounted to self-defense. Blacks, from within and outside the St. Louis area, had reacted by taking over certain Ferguson streets. In August, and more destructively in November, a number of protestors at these “peaceful” rallies vandalized and burned commercial properties. At a follow-up rally last March, a demonstrator shot and wounded two on-duty police officers. Black Lives Matter organizers were a distinct presence at these rallies, whipping up misinformation and resentment. The group also sponsored “freedom rides” to bus in out-of-town demonstrators.
The Ferguson riots are history, but Black Lives Matter and their growing legion of supporters, buoyed by Twitter and other social media, appear to be the future. The group has grown to nearly 30 chapters in the U.S. and abroad. It has organized at least a thousand rallies. Black Lives Matter has no official headquarters. Its central direction occurs via demonstrations and social media. Yet if any one place can lay claim to being unofficial headquarters, it would be St. Louis. The city is next door to Ferguson and long has been a primary sending area for students enrolling in the University of Missouri Higher Education System. As for the latter, BLM demonstrators last November succeeded in forcing the resignation of System President Tim Wolfe. Given that leaders of both major parties covet the black vote, the predominantly black Harris-Stowe State University, located in midtown St. Louis, was a logical campaign stop. The event gave attendees an opportunity to get a sense of where the candidates, Roy Blunt and Jason Kander, stand. Other Missouri political leaders also spoke at the occasion. The event was amply bankrolled; Anheuser-Busch, in fact, sponsored the post-program reception.
The show began ominously. One of the co-emcees, Courtney Z. Stewart, vice president of strategic communications for the St. Louis-based Missouri Foundation for Health, announced: “Black lives matter. Period.” Translation: “Black lives matter more than white ones do – no ifs, ands or buts about it!” Roy Blunt, the incumbent GOP senator, followed her at the podium. Rather than at least say, in mild rebuttal, “All lives matter,” he effectively ratified the core BLM assumption that whites are committing genocide against blacks. Blunt remarked: “Black lives matter – we do need to say that,” adding that it was hard to believe anyone had to say this “long after the Civil War.” These feckless comments, however unintentionally, merely fueled the radicals’ fire. The senator, in fact, had begun his presentation by invoking Martin Luther King’s “drum major” speech of February 1968. Praising King’s metaphor, Blunt stated: “A drum major cannot be successful unless there’s a band.” Apparently, he was unaware that in the current political context, Black Lives Matter leaders are the drum majors. And their excitable audiences are the band.
Senator Blunt’s words weren’t just disappointing; they also contradicted his previously expressed views about BLM and the street warriors it supports. Back in December 2014, the month after the grand jury ruling in the Darren Wilson case, Blunt stated in an interview on KMBZ radio (Kansas City) that the Ferguson protestors bore a measure of responsibility for the ambush murder of two on-duty New York City police officers in Brooklyn, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. In Blunt’s own words: “You got the police out there protecting the protestors and themselves and being constantly criticized for everything they’re doing, and now that may be from that constant criticism something may have gotten into this man’s head.” The senator’s comment was entirely justified. The murderer, a black male with a long criminal record, Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley, openly admitted that he had intended his attack as revenge for the deaths at the hands of police of Michael Brown (Ferguson) and Eric Garner (Staten Island, N.Y.), and the refusal by a grand jury in each case not to indict. Brinsley, once having gotten wind that the cops were onto him, fled into a subway station and committed suicide. Blacks Lives Matter had organized protests on behalf of Garner as well as Brown.
Jason Kander, unlike his incumbent rival, had no previous statements to live down. Thus, he felt free to reveal himself as a full-throated supporter of BLM. Kander, 34, wasn’t simply content to announce, “Black lives matter.” He also let John Gaskin III, a board member of the NAACP, vet his prepared remarks in advance. And he expressed fulsome praise for Walthall M. Moore Sr., who in 1920 became the first black elected to the Missouri legislature and who used his power to upgrade the Lincoln Institute into Lincoln University. The intent was palpable: Kander had hoped to embarrass Blunt, a member of the “party of Lincoln” (in both senses of the term), into expressing solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Kander, a Democrat, who had announced his candidacy in February 2015, is hardly a renegade in his party. He won key endorsements at that time from Governor Jay Nixon and Senator Claire McCaskill. Sen. McCaskill put it this way: “There is no stronger candidate in Missouri to take on Senator Blunt than Jason Kander. And no one better to fight on behalf of Missouri’s working families.”
The MLK Commission event attracted other top-level white politicians. Attorney General Chris Koster boasted of being taught criminal law by Michael Middleton, the interim president of the University of Missouri system following the departure of Tim Wolfe. He also vowed to: push for body-worn police cameras; request that police department diversity statistics be added to the data base of his office’s annual Vehicle Stops Report; and urge the Missouri General Assembly to enact legislation to “create new pathways” to attract “applicants of color” for careers in police work. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay promised to: fully support the newly-established Civilian Oversight Board; reform municipal court procedures; and provide full funding for a police body camera pilot program. St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, not to be outdone, called for the county to conduct a racial “disparity” study of contracting practices and establish countywide standards for municipal police departments. All of these wish-list items represented capitulation to Black Lives Matter and its guiding assumptions.
The solidarity expressed by leading Missouri political figures toward Black Lives Matter reflects a larger national tendency of fear and acquiescence. Very few, if any, political leaders of either major party are willing to speak out against this organization’s deplorable tactics, many of them illegal. Even those who do speak out, stop short of challenging the group’s core beliefs. Thus, by their inaction, they send a message: Intimidation works. Unfortunately, intimidation will continue to work until good people stand up to these street bullies. Roy Blunt and other leading Missouri politicians just aren’t up to the job yet.