Temperatures Rising At St Louis City Workhouse Protest 

Tensions in this city are high. It’s over 100 degrees in the day, humidity is high, Mayor Lyda Krewson is new in office with very little support North of Delmar, and prisoners are suffering in the St Louis City Workhouse. 

Yesterday  I took video at The Workhouse by myself. Today hundreds joined me as we heard the chants, screams and cries for help from prisoners. 

Protesters showed up young and old, black and white,committed activists from Ferguson and those new to protests. All stood united in demanding prisoners be released rather than be held in such hot and inhumane conditions. 

Members of leftist organizations, local Democratic politicians and just ordinary concerned citizens interacted with prisoners through their windows. At one point protesters breached a fence outside  of the jail. Police responded slowly and gradually building up their presence. Many officers appeared to be less than enthused. One officer appeared to have a breakdown and ran away. Other officers casually chatted. Several officers engaged in shoving matches with protesters.

By the end of the protest it looked like Ferguson. Police were towing cars, citizens were being randomly sprayed with chemicals, and heavy-handed tactics were used. Police also repeated the tactic of shutting down vehicular traffic making it hard to get to the protests and jamming cell phone signals. 

While Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed has announced potable air conditioners will be provided soon details remain sketchy. Reed admitted to a reporter he acted out of pressure from protesters and FOX 2 reporter Elliot Davis. 

St Louis Treasurer and Mayoral candidate Tishaura Jones had made closing the City Workhouse part of her platform. In addition to the lack of air conditioning the Workhouse has been plagued with mismanagement and violence over the years. 

It’s time for Mayor Lyda Krewson to step up. St Louis is ready to burn. Proceed with caution.

7th Ward Committeemen and Gloves for Grades President Marty Murray looks on
21st Ward Alderman John Muhammad calms a heated protester
Veteran Ferguson protester Talal Ahmad was on hand
Protesters breach the outer fence and try to scale the inner fence of the workhouse
A heated discussion between Ferguson protester Keith Rose and an officer
Sheriff Vernon Betts talks to protesters
Things got a little close
Drones were in the sky above us
A pepper spray victim being cared for by a veteran Ferguson activist
A pepper spray victim
FOX 2 reporter Elliot Davis, independent journalist Derk Brown, and Talal Ahmad
Myself Umar Lee on hand tonight
St Louis Public Radio photographer Carolina Hidalgo doing her thing

St Louis City Workhouse: Prisoners Are Burning Alive 

The temperature is above 100 degrees today.  It will remain over 100 this entire week. This is bad news for St Louis prisoners who are packed like sardines in the violence-plagued and woefully mismanaged St Louis City Workhouse on Hall Street in North St Louis.  

Today I stood outside the workhouse as prisoners waved white shirts and begged for help. The question for St Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, Governor Eric Greitens and St Louis judges is this- what kind of America do you believe in? Do you believe in an America of freedom and human rights? Or do you believe in an America where those too poor to post bail and convicted of no crime suffer in inhumane conditions? 

Tomorrow night at 7:00 PM join myself and others as we gather outside of the workhouse asking for it to be shutdown. If you cannot be there in person please contribute to the release bonds of prisoners, call the mayor, call the governor, and call judges asking for the prisoners to be released. 

Shut it down! See my video from today below. Some very powerful testimony. 

On the wall in the lobby at the City Workhouse

St Louis Firefighter John Kemper Loses His Life 

St Louis Firefighter Captain John Kemper, 59, a 24-year veteran of the department, lost his life today from injuries sustained in the line of duty. Kemper responded to a fire in the early hours of July 5th in the 3600 block of Pennsylvania where he was taken by ambulance to St Louis University Hospital for injuries sustained. After being hospitalized for several days Kemper returned to his home with his wife where he passed away. Backstoppers is a local organization that cares for the families of firefighters and police officers who lose their life while on duty. Below is the video I took at the scene as well as a number of photos I captured. 

Fireworks I found at the scene
Fireworks I found at the scene
Fireworks I found at the scene
Fireworks I found at the scene
Fireworks I found at the scene

Fire Damage Scene Photos Below 

Governor Eric Greitens and St Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson Announce Crime Plan in North St Louis 

Earlier today Missouri Governor Eric Greitens and St Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson delivered addresses at the Riverview Plaza Shopping Center in North St Louis on their new plans on combatting violent crime in St Louis.  Some key aspects of this plan include utilizing the Missouri Highway Patrol to monitor interstates through the city, the city police restarting the narcotics squad, cracking down on guns and a variety of other measures.  Critics of the plan, including State Senator Jamilah Nasheed noted it was basically unfunded “running Peter to pay Paul”. Others have noted with Gov. Greitens supporting right-to-work and slashing the minimum wage of St Louis workers it hardly puts him in a good position to “tackle the root causes of crime”. 

Protesters gather to greet Gov. Greitens
St Louis Sheriff Vernon Betts has a word with interim St Louis Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole
Riverview neighborhood residents protesting speeding
State Rep Bruce Franks
St Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson
Missouri Governor Eric Greitens
15th Ward Alderwoman Megan Green on hand protesting the governor 
A scene from the once thriving Baden neighborhood in North St Louis on the way to the event

Johnny Reb Leaves Forest Park

Johnny finally left St Louis. He thought to himself it was fitting that he leave on a hot and humid day sweltering just like the days when his people burned in Atlanta and waged war in the backwoods and swamps of Mississippi . He had fought hard for many generations fending off the entrance of foes to restaurants, subdivisions, neighborhoods and elected office. Johnny had inspired this city and it existed in his image. His army of grey inspired a young army in blue and each day the young soldiers passed Johnny sent them his love. Johnny whispered words of comfort as Ferguson erupted in enemy protest and sent his moral support to the warriors in his path. Looking back Johnny knew there was no one who could say he hadn’t fought the good fight. Nor had he not been a strong ally of his brother and neighbor Louis and a brother in arms to his distant relation permanently aroused on the St Louis Riverfront for all to see. Every year Johnny welcomed a veiled prophet to proselytize to the faith. After facing weeks of physical assault Johnny knew his time was all but up. After all Johnny had waived the white flag of surrender before. As recognition turned to grief Johnny found solace in scripture. Johnny vowed to live on in spirit after his physical departure from this world. After all, Johnny came to St Louis decades after Lee surrendered at Appomattox. When the last blows came to Johnny to remove his physical presence from this world he said a prayer to himself “I’ve now sacrificed my body for you, I now only exist in spirit and in your hearts, now go and spread my gospel to the uttermost places of St Louis, I shall live through you .”

Laclede Cab Fired Me for Black Lives Matter- My Response

In 2005 I was looking for a job. I’d just moved back to St. Louis after another stint in Brooklyn. The first job I had was working as a courier. I’d drive my souped-up Chevy around St. Louis delivering documents and blasting my radio all day. The money wasn’t good though.

In my cab in 2005 chillin in College Hill by the Water Tower

A friend of mine had been driving a cab for a long time for Allen Cab. Allen is now out of business;  but back in the day was known as the “hood cab company”. He suggested I drive a cab. My friend Kelly Von Plonski from Subterranean Books also suggested cab driving may be good for me because I like to talk to people.  I decided to talk to my grandfather who had been a cabbie in St. Louis in the 1950’s. Grandpa told me driving a cab was hard; but I should give it a try.

I first applied to St. Louis County Cab. They told me I had to shave my beard. Not wanting to shave my beard I headed down to Laclede Cab and got hired immediately. 

For ten years I worked for Laclede Cab outside of three time periods.  In 2006 I went back to New York getting a job working for a market-research company and driving a livery-cab on the side.  In 2008 I went to Washington, DC to work as an aid to Imam Mahdi Bray of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation.  I came back to St. Louis with Fatimah (my then wife) and her sons. In 2009 I had a brief stint in Dallas due to family reasons and drove a cab down there and did some work for ACORN.

Laclede Cab would always hire me back because I had a good relationship with General Manager Kenny Whitehorn. Kenny is a great guy and runs Laclede Cab on a daily basis. He’s also the highest ranking African-American at the company.  I went to McCluer North with his nephew Jesse. 

Not everyone is as cool as Kenny. When I got hired the president was Jerry Standley.  To say Jerry wasn’t a people person is an understatement.  He was known for having a hot temper and firing people just for the hell of it. Before I was hired he reportedly walked around with a ruler measuring drivers hair to make sure it wasn’t too long. Shortly after I was hired he began offering a $100 reward for any driver who’d snitch on another driver for having a cell phone. 

Jerry Standley retired in 2006. However,  his son Stan remained as the company controller.  Sam has the honor of being a convicted child-rapist in North Carolina. For years if you wanted a de-seg VICC school-trip taking African-American children in the city to school in the suburbs you had to talk to Sam. Yep good ‘ole Sam the registered sex-offender just the one you want with all the addresses of the kiddos.

Sam Standley. Registered sex offender and controller at Laclede Cab. A child-rapist is cool to Laclede Owner Dave McNutt. Fighting racism and police-violence isn't.

Every time I had to see the degenerate Sam Standley I had to hold my tongue.  When I asked around as to how the hell this guy has a job for a company that transports kids everyone at Laclede said this is Dave McNutt’s company he does what he wants.

Not every had a problem with Stan. When Jerry Standley retired Adam McNutt ,son of Dave, took over as president.  He was slow to the draw and on the soft side unable to deal with and intimidated by gruff working-class cabbies. Apparently in order to solve this problem retired ex St. Louis County Police Major Ted Hylla was brought in. Later Adam would lead the way to computer-dispatching and modernization. 

Laclede Cab Vice President Ted Hylla is a retired St Louis County Police Major. Since the Ferguson Movement and my involvement in #BlackLivesMatter we haven't spoken.

No one at Laclede knows exactly what Ted does other than walk around drinking coffee all day. A frequent question is “what the hell is Ted doing here?”. Interestingly while Ted seems to do very little and the African-American GM does everything on a day to day basis Ted outranks the GM.

A lot of drivers think Dave McNutt may have got help from Ted Hylla on some criminal stuff in the past and McNutt has taken care of him in retirement. That’s just speculation with no evidence.  What I do know is that while Ted promotes himself as a stand-up guy and law and order type on a daily basis he can be seen laughing and joking with a child-rapist like best buddies. 

Ted stopped talking to me over my participation in Ferguson protests and the Black Lives Matter movement.  His son is currently a St. Louis County cop based in North County last I heard.  I never was mad at Ted over that. I was working hard doing my job and he had his pro-police position.  Knowing that we would argue and disagree we just avoided each other. 

Dave McNutt to the right. His son Adam, President of Laclede Cab in the middle, and Dave Jr to the left.

One man runs Laclede Cab and that is Dave McNutt.  It was his call to fire me after receiving complaints from racist trolls.  While I’ve put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the pockets of Dave McNutt he wasn’t man enough to fire me face to face. Instead he had Kenny Whitehorn come in from vacation.  I love Kenny,  no hard feelings to him; because I know all he did is what Dave McNutt told him to do.

My Twitter feed and Facebook inbox is flooded with support.  I’m feeling the love. Now I just need to translate that into a new job with the quickness and if I can’t do that crowd-funding for the time being.  Several people have remarked this may be a blessing in disguise. People say I’m over-qualified to be a cabbie.  Why is an award-winning writer with bylines in The Guardian and Politico driving a cab?

The truth of the matter is not only do I like driving a cab there hasn’t been a lot of full-time job offers on the table.  Driving a cab you get to meet and talk to all sorts of people from low places to high places.  I talk to them, listen to their stories,  and they listen to mine. I’ll miss them. 

Taking my grandfather a WWII combat veteran from the 1st Marine Division to the polls in 2012 to vote for President Barack Obama.

I have some great Laclede Cab memories.  Driving Fatimah to the hospital to give birth to my daughter,  taking my daughter home from the hospital in the cab, picking up famous people,  having passengers turn into friends,  and other family memories. Some sad ones to. Hearing sad stories and called to tragic scenes to pick people up.

A lot of people have mentioned I should drive for Uber.  My opposition to Uber was never about supporting companies.  It was about supporting working-class jobs. The issue of me being fired over exercising my constitutional right to free-speech highlights the need to organize cabbies.  Cabbies need a union. We need a voice at the table,  a grievance process,  collective bargaining,  health care,  sick days,  a pension. I’ll continue to work towards these efforts. 

I will also miss seeing a lot of the people I had a relationship with at Laclede. Drivers,  the cashier,  the guys that check our oil.  I say to them, especially the drivers,  without a union you can be next.

The party don’t stop.  This dunya is temporary.  Everything is a test.  Allah-willing better things on the road ahead.

If you support Black Lives Matter and freedom of speech and believe my firing to be unjust give Laclede Cab a call at 3145351162 or 3146523456 and ask to speak to Dave, Adam or Ted.