Around when the 3rd of July turned into the 4th of July, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson pulled over her SUV amid a group of protestors in front of her home in the Central West End. What appeared to be scraps of an American flag were burning in the street. The mayor exited her vehicle and stamped out the small fire with a few stomps of her open-toed sandals.
Krewson could not possibly have been acting out of concern for public safety or fire damage to her home. In video of the incident, there is nothing near the small patches of fire that could have been ignited. Further, the existing fire was so harmless the mayor clearly felt confident in stamping it out in sandals. There is no indication from the video that she burned her foot or her exposed toes extinguishing the fire.
Apparently, then, she was motivated, not by fire safety, but by patriotism. If so, this gesture was as without purpose as any possible act of fire safety.
According to eyewitness Keith Rose, the item set on fire was not an American flag but rather a hat printed with an American flag pattern. According to the U.S. Flag Code, “The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.” So, the act of flag desecration here was the manufacturer printing the American flag on a hat. The American flag is a symbol of the United States; a hat printed with the flag is a desecration of that symbol. Burning such a hat is, if anything, destroying an act of desecration. A true patriot would have watched that hat burn.
On Friday, July 3, the mayor’s public health order mandating the wearing of protective masks while in public went into effect for the City of St. Louis. When the mayor exited her car and stepped into public, she did not put on a mask. As she continued to interact with people, most of them wearing masks, she did not put on a mask. Most of the public safety personnel who drifted onto the scene were not wearing masks. Police Chief John Hayden walked onto the scene not wearing a mask. All of these public safety officials and the mayor herself were in flagrant violation of the mayor’s public health order.
The American has asked the mayor’s spokesman to comment from her perspective. That response will be reported when received.
The people clustered near the burning hat across from Krewson’s home were protesting the mayor, among other reasons, for publicly announcing the names and addresses of people who are calling on the city to defund the police. Defunding the police would put some St. Louis police officers out of work. St. Louis police officers have been photographed and videotaped responding viciously to people who protest them. It is reasonable to fear the St. Louis police if they know you want to put them out of work. Nearly 60,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Krewson to resign over this incident.
Though she apologized, Krewson has said that she will not resign and will seek a second term in 2021.
The image of the mayor, without a mask in public, stamping out a smoldering hat that desecrates the American flag in open-toed sandals was the second of two pathetic images of white St. Louisans that ushered in this 4th of July.
Earlier that evening, attorney Albert Watkins was photographed sipping a beer on the second-floor veranda of the home of his clients Mark and Patricia McCloskey in the Central West End, near Krewson’s home. Notoriously, protestors marched past the McCloskeys’ home on June 28 as part of an action that included a protest of Krewson at her home. The McCloskeys confronted the peaceful protestors wielding firearms and screaming at them for trespassing on a street clearly marked as private. The McCloskeys called the police, who listed them as victims in the incident report, but St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner is investigating them for possibly committing unlawful use of deadly weapons. The McCloskeys claim innocence.
On July 3, the McCloskeys were well protected, though not by themselves and their own evidently untrained use of firearms. Watkins was on their veranda sipping a beer and chatting with the sort of burly men who exude armed security trying to look vigilant and menacing. Chief Hayden also made an appearance some hours before he joined the mayor at her home nearby, where she was stamping out the smoldering flag desecration hat. However, Watkins demoted the chief several ranks to captain in his press statement the next morning.
“Left unchecked by political appeasement, Captain Hayden was present on the scene, respectful of the rights of protesters and respectful of the rights of property owners,” Watkins wrote. The presence of the chief (whose rank is colonel, not captain) was key. The McCloskeys claimed that they rose to the defense of their own property on June 28 (albeit against people walking peacefully past their home on the sidewalk) because they had seen news reports of the police watch a 7-11 get looted and burned on June 1 without stopping or arresting anyone.
Watkins turned his 4th of July message into a paean to the glory of law enforcement.
“Each and every day law enforcement acts with excellence to serve and protect,” Watkins wrote. “Unfortunately, they have lousy public relations skills. They don’t brag. In this day of a one-dimensional social-media driven world, the millions of good deeds conducted daily by law enforcement in our country are shrouded in social media secrecy and replaced with far and few between images demonstrating where law enforcement may have fallen short of the mark.”
The pathetic thing about seeing Watkins keep this company and make this statement is his past heroism in uncovering police abuse of the public. Unlike Krewson, who has been at best status-quo during her decades of public service, Watkins has taken real risks and helped to achieve some stunning acts of public service – all while acting as a private defense and plaintiff’s attorney.
Though he is a media hound of the highest order, which helps to explain his taking the McCloskey case, most of Watkins’ best work has been done behind the scenes and off the record. As such, being respectful of attorney-client and journalist-source privileges and protocols, most of what Watkins has done to protect the public from the police cannot be documented and may never be known in detail, unless Watkins writes a tell-all memoir – which would be a very good idea for him to do (and soon, if his shaky appearances on national television in defense of the McCloskeys are any indication of the counselor’s health).
Suffice it to say, based on The St. Louis American’s immersion in these stories and their sourcing, that were it not for Albert Watkins, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s criminal racket flipping the titles of towed citizen vehicles and selling them for private profit may not have been uncovered and disrupted. Were it not for Watkins, Police Officer Jason Stockley may never have been terminated from the St. Louis police department or charged with murder for killing Anthony Lamar Smith. Were it not for Watkins, the public may never have seen the disturbing DNA evidence that Stockley’s DNA was on the gun recovered from his victim but that Smith’s DNA was not on that gun.
That’s just the St. Louis police department. It was Albert Watkins who represented the ex-husband of the alleged victim of Eric Greitens during his campaign for governor that got then-Gov. Greitens charged with a felony for allegedly taking a nude photograph of a woman against her will on a device that can transmit to the internet. Those charges were dropped, but they were critical to a chain of events that forced this dangerous fraud with national ambitions out of statewide power.
Watkins’ role in all of these capers was pushing evidence into the public domain by any means available. In every case, others did hard, essential work with the evidence provided by sources like Watkins. The Post-Dispatch investigative team of Joe Mahr and Jeremy Kohler broke the police towing scam story and drove it hard until a federal investigation drew blood (but not of Joe Mokwa, the police chief during the towing scam, a story for another day). The activists Anthony Shahid and Rev. Phillip Duval deserve lead credit for forcing a reopening of the Stockley case. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner made the bold decision to charge Greitens, and the Missouri Legislature ultimately scared him out of office. But in each of these cases, there was crucial evidence in circulation between Watkins, media and activists before the stories or cases were broken open publicly. In each case, Watkins continued to work off the record and behind the scenes as the story or case developed. Anyone who denies that is either protecting Watkins as a key source or unaware of his role in the evidence chain.
So, this gadfly Albert Watkins helped to bust up the cops’ towing racket, deprive Stockley of a badge, and drive Greitens out of the governor’s mansion. And now there he was sipping a beer with menacing security types, two stories above protestors fighting for black lives, on retainer by the McCloskeys, then waking up and writing trite, glorifying platitudes about the greatness of law enforcement.
Mayor Krewson, know your Flag Code, don’t put out fires in open-toed sandals, and respect public safety. Wear a mask.
Counselor Watkins, drop the McCloskeys as clients and come back down to the street where you belong.