ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson is facing backlash on social media Friday night for reading the names and street addresses of protesters who are calling on the city to defund the police department.
Members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen have spoken out and the ACLU of Missouri also has responded.
The briefing was aired publicly on Facebook Live, and a recording was online for about three hours before it was deleted.
The doxing started during the question-and-answer portion of the briefing Friday afternoon, which she has held regularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Near the end of the briefing, a question from a woman named Rachel is read aloud to the mayor by her spokesman Jacob Long, who is off-camera.
“Rachel has a question, Mayor, about your meeting today with some demonstrators outside City Hall,” Long says. “She wants to know: How was that meeting, and what did you talk about?”
“Well thank you for that, Rachel,” Krewson responds. “So there was a demonstration here, in front — sort of on Tucker and Market here — and the demonstrators wanted to meet with me. So I went outside City Hall, in the circle on the Tucker side of City Hall. The conversation wasn’t really a two-way conversation, I’ll be honest with you, because there was a very loud, um, very loud response from the demonstrators.”
But protesters had given her written outlines of their proposals for how the city could better allocate money that now goes to the police department. “And so they gave me some papers about how they thought, uh — in fact I’ll go pick it up off my desk, hang on,” Krewson said. At this point, Krewson steps away from the camera and walks across her office to retrieve a stack of papers from her desk, then returns on-camera with the papers, as the briefing was still streaming live, NBC‘s affiliate in St. Louis, KSDK, reported.
“So they presented some papers to me about how they wanted the budget to be spent,” Krewson says while putting on reading glasses. “Here’s one that wants $50 million to go to Cure Violence, $75 million to go to affordable housing, $60 million to go to Health and Human Services and have zero go to the police. So that’s [REDACTED] who lives on [REDACTED] wants no police — no money going to police.”
From this point in the video, Krewson continues to read the demands of demonstrators — most of them seeking to defund the police and shift that money into social services — as well as several of their full names and which streets they live on.
The River Front Times counted at least ten instances that Krewson read aloud an activist’s full name and the name of the street on which they reside. At one point in time she lists a person’s full name and full street address, remarking, “He lives around the corner from me.”
After reading the budgetary demands of more than twenty people, including identifying information about most of them, she made these remarks:
“I agree with all these things, by the way — except we’re not going to take all the money from the police,” she says. “I think we need our police department.”
The backlash on social media to what many perceived as the doxing of activists was swift. (The video in the first post below has been edited to remove identifying information.)
In the now-deleted Facebook video, Mayor Krewson said the conversation “wasn’t really a two-way conversation… because there was a very loud response from the demonstrators.”
She said the group gave her some papers about how they thought the city’s budget should be spent, at which time she stepped away from the camera to grab the papers off of her desk.
Mayor Krewson then began reading the suggestions. Many of them suggested a budget of $0 for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
The mayor then began reading the suggestions out loud, including first and last names and what streets people lived on – in some cases, she gave exact addresses, KSDK reported – along with how they want the budget to be spent. Many of the proposals suggested that the city should budget zero dollars for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
During the Facebook Live video, which has since been deleted, Krewson said multiple times that she is against defunding the police, according to KSDK.
Her reading aloud protesters’ names and addresses prompted a wave of criticism, some calling her actions “shocking” or comparing them to doxxing, which is the broadcasting online of private or identifying information about an individual or organization.
St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Ellyia Green, who represents Ward 15 in south city, slammed Krewson, tweeting at her: “Hey @LydaKrewson. So 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. #DoBetter.”
“No leader should resort to intimidation of the residents they were elected to represent. Period,” tweeted Cara Spencer, another St. Louis alderwoman.
The ACLU of Missouri also condemned Krewson’s actions.
“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,” said Sara Baker, ACLU of Missouri’s policy director, in a statement. “The chilling of debate should bother everyone, no matter whether they agree or disagree with the mayor on this particular issue.”
In the days since the topic of defunding police has come up, the mayor has said several times during her Facebook Live briefings she is against removing funding from the St. Louis police department.
On Friday night, Mayor Krewson issued a statement apologizing for her actions. The full statement is below:
“In an effort to be transparent and accessible to the public during the Covid-19 pandemic, for more than three months now I have been doing tri-weekly community updates on Facebook. Tonight, I would like to apologize for identifying individuals who presented letters to me at City Hall as I was answering a routine question during one of my updates earlier today. While this is public information, I did not intend to cause distress or harm to anyone. The post has been removed.”
The apology came after two St. Louis Board of Aldermen members and commenters online criticized the mayor for what many people called “doxxing” the protesters.
For some, such as Green, the apology is not enough.
“It’s not about intent. It’s about impact. The apology takes no responsibility for actions and no commitment to do differently in the future. @LydaKrewson put our residents at risk and needs to resign,” Green tweeted in response to the mayor’s statement.
The ACLU of Missouri issued the following statement Friday evening regarding Mayor Krewson’s reading of names and addresses:
“Today adds to the list of things we never thought we would have to say. 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.” – Sara Baker, Policy Director ACLU of Missouri
Some people online are even calling for her to resign. As of Saturday, at least 15,000 people had signed the Change.org petition calling for Krewson’s resignation, contending that she “directly endangered the lives of protesters by releasing their names and addresses.”
The incident sparked a demonstration by racial justice activists outside the mayor’s mansion in St .Louis’ Central West End neighborhood. The activists managed to enter the private gated community where the mansion resides, causing a couple of neighbors, personal injury attorneys Mark and Patricia McCloskey — dubbed “Ken and Karen” by the internet — to make a spectacle of themselves posing provocatively in front of their palatial residence with firearms aimed eagerly at the peaceful demonstrators passing by that ended up going viral.
As the story spread online, the McCloskeys found themselves facing a severe viral backlash spawning thousands of memes, with some netizens jokingly comparing them to action movie heroes and even video game characters.
Even President Donald Trump amplified the incident without really commenting on it, retweeting a video from ABC News that didn’t really take a stance on the matter.
Thankfully, no shots were fired by the couple and the protest was peaceful.