Race Matters, Friends Sends Open Letter RE: Violence at Local Protests

Dear Boone County Commissioners and Columbia City Council:

cc: Mr. Knight, Mr. Glascock, Chief Jones

We respectfully write to you with our concerns for justice and transparency, and hope you meet us with open minds.

On June 3, 2020, for the third time in less than a week, a man drove his car through
a group of protesters on the streets of Columbia. The vehicle assaults in Columbia
have now garnered national coverage as referenced in a June 2, 2020 Buzzfeed
article
that covers the increasing number of these assaults in 17 communities as of
the date of the publication. As of today, June 8, 2020, one week after the first of two other such incidents in which protesters were injured, the public has not been fully updated on the identification, charges, or arrests of the drivers.

Our organizations call upon the police to prioritize the arrests of any person(s) who use(s) a vehicle to intimidate or injure protesters - and complete transparency to the public about their response. These are two crucial steps to building community trust. We hold similar expectations of the prosecutors, that these individuals willing to endanger - and actively assault - our citizens be prosecuted for the serious breach of law and decency that it is.

We, the citizens of Columbia, should not be forced to choose between our safety and our right to peaceably assemble as provided for in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Our organizations hold that without investigations, those who
oppose peaceful demonstration will be emboldened to commit further acts of violence. If intimidation or an assault with a vehicle occurs, our Police Department and City should make it unequivocally clear that they regard this act as an extremely serious violation, and that they will do everything in their power to protect protesters and hold those responsible accountable.

As Aliki Barnstone writes in the Missourian, June 5, 2020:
“If the perpetrators are not held accountable, more of them will be emboldened to ram their vehicles into peaceful protesters and, perhaps, kill someone. This is a concrete example of the way in which “silence is violence.”

We seek a direct response from you, our public officials, as well as routine public announcements, press releases, and/or press conferences as events unfold. Further, we ask for publicly visible discussion and responses as follows:

Columbia Police Department -- Please specifically address policies and protocols used to define and determine whether an incident such as we've seen are hit-and-run, vehicular assault, or hate-crime. Next, what do these policies and protocols dictate the police response to be? Lastly, given the current protest environment throughout the nation, we would like to know if when vehicles are used as weapons against protesters, does this qualify as a hate crime? What specifically qualifies as a hate crime?

We are profoundly concerned that the City of Columbia and Columbia Police Department did not publicly state that intimidation and harm to protesters will not be tolerated and that violators will be subject to arrest and prosecution. We call on you to inform the public immediately and fully, and to assert that incidents involving people who drive vehicles into protesters will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

We appreciate your prompt response to this exceedingly grave situation. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Race Matters, Friends

COMO for Progress

COMO: RMF Community Response to COVID-19

RE: CoMO Speaks; Common Needs for Public Health & Safety; Mitigating Pandemic Challenges; and a Return to Our Lives

COLUMBIA, MO., 14 May 2020 -- Race Matters, Friends (RMF) would like to take this opportunity to disrupt yet another example of either/or binary thinking in addressing community problems. There are inherent conflicts with both Mike Trapp and Fred Parry’s indulgence in throwing the City/County Public Health and Human Services Department under the bus during a crisis as elected officials, ostensibly representing the very agencies undermining public health officials.

RMF sees white men (i.e. white interests) mostly engaged in power struggle rooted in shameless self-interest and ideological grievances instead of focusing on repairing/resolving/focusing on the immediate challenge: COVID-19 and ENTIRE Community Response. Their position is clearly a power struggle to control who can reopen for business, pitted against a lack of  (affordable) accessibility to testing for the public, and  effectively establishing de facto policy on who is entitled to remain healthy or permitted to mitigate their own exposure and risks..

The pro-business/anti-business dichotomy is a dangerous and pathological binary that glosses over any meaningful strategization or feasible solutions while engaging in topics that affect ALL Columbia residents. We perceive the ”reopen business” campaign as a political power grab in the midst of a public health crisis. A larger tragedy in our view is a lack of institutional partners with entities such as University Physicians, the MU School of Medicine, Boone Hospital, the Harry S. Truman Veteran’s Hospital, the University of Missouri and it’s R1 research credentials. Why are these public institutions not visible and publicly cooperating to support and advocate for our Public Health and Human Services Department? This, in our opinion, is public policy malpractice.

Even though we are/were not involved in the creation of CoMo Speaks, we applaud its message. It appears by its content that CoMo Speaks is not an argument about keeping people from work and earning an income, contrary to circulating criticism. We all realize that a lot of local business owners and workers are hurting.  We agree with Como Speaks’ inclusive message about making sure all people can return to work - safely. However, we are not suggesting that we get back to a normal that doesn’t exist anymore. We want our community to return to work and other semblances of normalcy, all while protecting their health and safety. People before profits.

In the meantime, RMF is preparing to host an online discussion via Zoom (TBA -- open to the community) to explore workable solutions and propose the following ideas/topics for consideration.  These are ideas we are processing for a public discussion:

The City has the means of production to operate without the necessity of capital beyond that of strictly unavoidable costs, which can be covered from the contingency funds. This might also take the form of a targeted, graduated fee structure much as previously described to minimize the impact on the contingency funds balance and target those with the highest need for intervention. We think CoMo Speaks expresses a multivocal hope that aspires for all of us to get back to our lives in the most effective manner to the best interest of all parties.

RMF Executive Team

Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, President

Kendra Jackson Thornton, Vice President

David Del Llano Mich, Secretary

Chad McLaurin, Treasurer

Supporting

Peggy Placier, Project Coordinator, Community Bail Fund

Transparency Matters

Rebecca Shaw, Organizer, CoMo For Progress

Maria Oropallo

Resources for Thought

COVID-19: Implications for Business, 2020.05.13 | McKinsey & Company

COVID-19 Facts and Insights (PDF), 2020.05.06 | McKinsey & Company

Economic Impact Payment Information Center | Internal Revenue Service

Economic Effects of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Implications for a Modern-Day Pandemic (PDF), 2007.11 | Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis

Businesses in the Tri-State Region Struggling to Weather the Coronavirus Outbreak, 2020.03.20 | Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Fight the Pandemic, Save the Economy: Lessons from the 1918 Flu, 2020.03.27 | Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Lessons Learned from the 1918–1919 Influenza Pandemic in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota (Public Health Reports), 2007.11/12 | ResearchGate doi: 10.1177/003335490712200612

Struggling in a Good Economy, and Now Struggling in a Crisis, 2020.04.20 | NY Times

"Great Influenza" Author Talks COVID-19, 1918 Flu, 2020.04.10 |Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

Books:

Change in RMF Executive Board

10 November 2019

Vice President, Lynn Maloney Steps Down from Race Matters, Friends Executive Board... Offers Closing Thoughts

It was five years ago, and just two nights before Thanksgiving that a group of us came together and created Race Matters, Friends (RMF) as a group to confront racism in Columbia, MO.  A year and a half later, we became formally recognized as a 501(c)3.  

This week I chose to step away from the organization’s Executive Committee.  What I have learned about racism, activism, and the city of Columbia has affected me deeply, and I am proud of the work RMF continues to do as I step back to integrate all that I have experienced.

What I am chewing on right now is the reaction of the Columbia Public School district to RMF’s request for information regarding the district’s social equity work.  As racial disparities for discipline are commonly recognized as a reflection of the school-to-prison pipeline, RMF engaged several school administrators and was assisted by the ACLU in requesting records about the CPS’ equity practices.

From May of this year until the present, we requested records. We had conversations with students, their parents, and administrators in person and via email.  The Chief Equity Officer has demonstrably failed to perform her duties, as outlined in a detailed job description, which was recently removed from the CPS website.  

The upshot?  The Chief Equity Officer, Carla London, filed a police report and protective order for herself and her children against our president.  The judge dismissed both protective orders. Friends have asked me what happened, understanding that this was bizarre.  Others, have simply believed the validity of Ms. London’s unsubstantiated claims. Please read the documents filed by Ms. London, attached here.  You will find no evidence of wrong-doing as accused.  What you will find, is a series of emails between RMF and the Chief Equity Officer asking for questions to be answered.

RMF’s inquiry into racial equity at Columbia Public Schools came after the President of the Missouri NAACP asked us to advocate for a mother whose child had been wrongly arrested by the police department.  Since that time we have learned of four cases pending against CPS regarding harmful disciplinary practices. 

Black millennial scholar and PhD student, Sharon Aniyam joined RMF at our Executive Committee Retreat last weekend.  RMF benefited from hearing about her racial justice activism in the UK.  She also helped us integrate the work of our retreat in this podcast,which she created as part of her research while visiting the US. Listen here:  Retreat Reflections with Race Matters Friends An episode of The Millennial VSCOholar, By The Millennial VSCOholar with (Sharon Aniyam, Traci Wilson-Kleekamp and Lynn Maloney)

Editorial Note: Welcome, Kendra Jackson as our interim Vice President!

####

Columbia Warrant Amnesty Dec 9-20, 2019

"This warrant amnesty applies to outstanding warrants from Columbia Municipal Court for anyone facing arrest for failing to appear for traffic and parking tickets or other City of Columbia ordinance violations."


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 8, 2019

CONTACT: Andrea Wymer
Municipal Deputy Court Administrator
City of Columbia
573.874.7298

Columbia Municipal Court offers warrant amnesty Dec. 9-13 and 16-20, 2019

(COLUMBIA, MO) - 

City of Columbia Municipal Court is offering a warrant amnesty for two weeks, Dec. 9-13 and 16-20, for individuals who wish to turn themselves into the Court. This warrant amnesty applies to outstanding warrants from Columbia Municipal Court for anyone facing arrest for failing to appear for traffic and parking tickets or other City of Columbia ordinance violations.

Individuals who voluntarily turn themselves in will have the outstanding Municipal warrant recalled and will be given an opportunity to resolve the case that day if they so choose or will have a new court date set to resolve the case. Anyone who participates in the warrant amnesty must promise that they will attend all future court dates. A failure to do so will result in a new warrant being issued. Individuals wishing to take advantage of this opportunity may turn themselves in at 9 a.m. each day or on any scheduled docket at Municipal Court, 600 E. Broadway - second floor, each day of the two weeks of Dec. 9-13 and 16-20. Individuals who show up at other times will be placed on the next available docket that day.

Municipal Court hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, including the noon hour. Citizens are able to check to see if they have a warrant on the City of Columbia Municipal Court’s website at this link: www.como.gov/Court

Citizens can visit in person at 600 E. Broadway, email: MunicipalCourt@CoMo.gov or call at 573.874.7298 if they have questions.

The decision to offer the warrant amnesty by Municipal Court Judge Cavanaugh Noce is intended to give a person a chance to get back on the right track by resolving or setting their case for a resolution

"A person can choose to be accountable and come in on their own time, or risk being arrested by officers when the warrant amnesty expires. It is my hope that citizens who have been afraid of going to jail will take this opportunity for a fresh start and come in on their own to get their City warrants recalled," Noce said.

City of Columbia Vision
Columbia is the best place for everyone to live, work, learn and play.

City of Columbia Mission
To serve the public through democratic, transparent and efficient government.

(Source: https://www.como.gov/CMS/pressreleases/view.php?id=6441&fbclid=IwAR1Vi5Zi_IZFMAxa5yijPzlPsn4KXEabxnomCGocxoAnVIGld3jrVIVzXs8 )

CPD Officer Faces Discipline for Wrongful Arrest at Smithton Middle School

I think it is appropriate and welcome that Chief Jones made his decision public. We should also understand that these kinds of outcomes are attributable to decisions made by management.

I personally don't support one SRO serving six middle schools for free, partially paid, or for a substantive contract service delivery amount. I object to arresting kids on the whims of school officials' use of hearsay and no investigative effort, not to mention zero conflict resolution effort. I'm not sold at all that SROs provide any kind of better or safe environment for students, particularly students of color.

So -- in a world where kids are a real priority, Dr. Stiepleman would have already jointly apologized with Chief Jones and told the community that they would work together to make sure this doesn't happen again. This would include reviewing their lack of following procedure and protocol and collaboratively developing restorative practice tools rooted in anti-racism. Public apologies are perfect for building trust and so is the kind of transparency that recognizes unforced errors that cause material impact and harm.

Race Matters, Friends is calling for Carla London's resignation because she should have been in front of this issue, supporting her principal, and providing guidance and demanding accountability. Instead, she attempted to marginalize the student and her family as problematic.

CPS has taken no responsibility for their poor judgment and lack of restorative practice when complaints of harassment were made We've seen London's rude apathy too often among administrators towards parents and reports of harassment, bullying, and conflict, and the denials need to stop too.

If the Chief Equity Officer can't manage a serious crisis like this and do it publicly to maintain and build public trust in her office, IMHO, she's unqualified for the job. Is the CPS board awake?

https://www.kbia.org/post/cpd-officer-faces-discipline-wrongful-arrest-smithton-middle-school?fbclid=IwAR3e1SSaCCMvJFTikV2HgcKS-28CJX-HAgCoUtfUt8YL0I2ZPd9Exx9qiLo#stream/0