The mayor of St. Louis is being put on blast for reading out the full names and street addresses of demonstrators who want to defund the police during a Friday briefing on Facebook Live. She’s since apologised for what was either an unbelievably boneheaded move or a thinly veiled intimidation tactic aimed at advocates for police reform (my money’s on the latter).
During the question-and-answer portion of a routine townhall live stream, Mayor Lyda Krewson was asked about her meeting with protestors at city hall earlier that day. In response, she read through proposals they’d submitted for how the city should reallocate its budget to defund police and divulged the full name and address of many of the people behind the suggestions.
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“I’d like to apologise for identifying individuals who presented letters to me at City Hall today,” Krewson tweeted later that evening. “This was during one of my Facebook updates as I was answering routine questions. Never did I intend to harm anyone or cause distress. The update is removed and again, I apologise.”
You can watch a clip of the incident (with all identifying information bleeped out, of course) here at NBC’s St. Louis affiliate, KSDK. A tweet of that same clip circulated widely on Twitter on Friday but has since been deleted.
Since doxing one’s constituents is a practice generally frowned upon, you might guess that people would be quite understandably pissed. And you’d be right! A petition demanding Krewson’s resignation has already accumulated more than 26,800 signatures in less than 24 hours.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri condemned the mayor in a statement posted on Twitter Friday.
“Today adds to the list of things we never thought we would have to say,” said Sara Baker, ACLU of Missouri’s policy director. “To be clear, it is shocking and misguided for Mayor Lyda Krewson of St. Louis to broadcast the addresses of those who dare to express a different viewpoint on an issue of public concern. It serves no apparent purpose beyond intimidation. We are stronger when we foster open dialogue. The chilling of debate should bother everyone, no matter whether they agree or disagree with the mayor on this particular issue.”
St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Ellyia Green had similarly harsh words, tweeting that it was “not cool to doxx my constituents who support #DefundThePolice on your FB live today. It’s a move designed to silence dissent, and it’s dangerous.”
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Another local councilperson, Cara Spencer, tweeted that, “No leader should resort to intimidation of the residents they were elected to represent. Period.”
As Krewson noted in a public statement, technically the letters became a matter of public record when she presented them at a public meeting per the state’s government transparency laws. However, while information on the public record can be accessed by anyone, usually it requires a formal request to obtain it. Not to mention that it doesn’t inspire much confidence when an elected official is splitting hairs over what is or isn’t technically illegal when it comes to handling people’s private information.
Despite Krewson’s claim that she didn’t mean any harm, it doesn’t take much of an imagination to jump to some pretty damning conclusions about the motives behind this reveal, especially since many of the proposals she read through suggested that the city should cut its police funding down to zero dollars. That’s bound to piss off a lot of people, and what better way to silence critics than by broadcasting where to find them to strangers online?