DOWNTOWN – For the second time in fewer than three months, protesters gathered in support of St. Louis’ top prosecutor. The small rally comes in defense of Kim Gardner, the reform-minded circuit attorney whose supporters say is being hamstrung by those looking to maintain the status quo.
“Blacks in St. Louis are living in dangerous times,” St. Louis NAACP president Adolphus Pruitt said in a fiery speech at the rally Thursday outside City Hall.
It was the second time this summer that local organizations and others took to the steps outside the seat of city government to side with Gardner against Mayor Lyda Krewson and City Counselor Julian Bush.
“We’re in some very serious times when your attorney will not defend the city because in defending the city, it would have to defend the circuit attorney,” Pruitt said of Bush. “And he would rather the city lose that lawsuit than win. We’re in some very dangerous times,” he added.
The lawsuit was filed in May by a city resident who alleged that Gardner’s hiring of private attorneys to defend her – since Bush won’t – was unlawful because it used taxpayer dollars.
Gardner retained the attorneys to defend her office. Her office is under investigation for what her supporters labeled as “backlash” from her case against then-Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens.
“Hands off Kim,” people chanted continually at the rally.
Outspoken and often controversial St. Louis lawyer Jerryl Christmas said, “We never stopped fighting the Civil War in St. Louis. It’s always black against white.”
Christmas referred Thursday to the fact that Gardner (and black St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell) wasn’t invited to a crime summit earlier this month with Gov. Mike Parson and the mayor. Christmas called the exclusion an act of war.
“Make no mistake about it, we are at war. We are at war because of Eric Grietens,” Christmas said, adding that powerful lawyers were using their influence with local judiciary, elected and non-elected officials against Gardner.
“It’s all centered around Greitens, a disgraced governor in a Democratic city with all Democratic officials coming after a black Democratic prosecutor who is trying to stand up and ensure justice,” Christmas said.
Christmas’ defense of the current circuit attorney comes after spending years at odds with her predecessor, Jennifer Joyce. He ran unsuccessfully against her for the office twice. He also once referred to an African American prosecutor working in the office as Joyce’s “Black puppet” on Twitter.
The recently formed Community Justice Coalition, a convergence of community, church and labor organizations, laid out their demands and issues, most notably calling for the city to take the circuit attorney’s side in a dispute with the city counselor and pay Gardner’s legal fees tied to the Greitens investigation and other probes that have followed.
They also point to “pushback” Gardner has received since taking office in 2017.
“As the first African-American city prosecutor, Gardner has been the target of relentless racist and sexist attacks,” the group said in a statement.