MLK events once again entwined in St. Louis mayor's race
During mayoral election years in St. Louis, activities surrounding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday often take on an overtly political cast.
This year is no different.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and his chief rival in the Democratic primary, Lewis Reed, are both participating in activities commemorating King's birthday.
But for most the part, the two aren't present at the same events or speaking to the same crowds.
Reed was grand marshal for today's annual parade that travels from the Old Courthouse to Powell Hall for an interfaith service. Reed also spoke at the kickoff event at the Old Courthouse before the parade got underway.
Slay, meanwhile, instead appeared this morning at the 28th annual commemorative breakfast at the Monsanto Family YMCA, 5555 Page Boulevard.
Slay also is participating in various MLK Day of Service events today, including a massive cleanup at Ruth Porter Park Community Garden, part of the St. Vincent Greenway revitalization. Car parts and old kitchen appliances were among the items littering the park.
For both campaigns, this year’s activities have become laced with a dispute over an apparent attempt by some mayoral critics, led by Percy Green, to resurrect a longstanding protest tactic against Slay called the “Boo Krew.”
Resurrection of 'Boo Krew'?
Green has been behind various efforts to organize “booing’’ at Slay’s official or campaign events for years, going back to the controversy over the mayor's differences with the first African-American fire chief, Sherman George.
Green often has tied the effort to MLK celebrations, prompting Slay to tweet today, "Encouraging disruption of the MLK parade is despicable."
On Saturday, Green spoke at a Reed campaign event marking the MLK anniversary and called once again for a booing campaign against the mayor.
Reed's campaign manager Glenn Burleigh, who said he wasn't present at the weekend event, denied today that the campaign was encouraging any such activities. But the campaign has no plans to condemn them, either.
"Percy Green is not part of our campaign," Burleigh said.
Chuckling, he added, "We're not coordinating folks to follow around the mayor and ‘boo’... We don’t have the money to pay people to do that.”
At the same time, Burleigh observed that the campaign can't prevent such activities. “It’s a free country. Whatever folks do on their own time, we have no control over.”
Slay campaign manager Richard Callow wasn't laughing.
"The (Green) words were part of a briefing delivered at a Reed campaign strategy meeting," Callow said. "I am not particularly reassured when Mr. Reed's agitator/campaign manager, who missed the meeting, disavows the statements of the septuagenarian activist who made them, only after they became public. I'd rather hear Mr. Reed, who was present, explain what he meant."
Callow then added, "If you are planning to invite Mr. Reed to a speaking event over the next six weeks, you might consider adding some extra chairs for his 'Boo Krew.'"
Burleigh said the Saturday event was a "public meet-and-greet advertised on multiple radio stations, and wasn't a strategy session."