Christopher Winston with For the People STL addresses protesters in front of CJC

Christopher Winston with For the People STL addresses protesters Feb. 8 in front of the City Justice Center in downtown St. Louis.

Two days after inmates took over units on the fourth floor of the City Justice Center, about 30 people gathered in freezing temperatures to protest the conditions at the jail.

The authorities can only “cage people up so long and treat them like absolute garbage,” until something happens, according to Christopher Winston.

“And something happened Saturday, and we’re out here showing solidarity with these people,” said Winston, an organizer with For The People — STL.

Winston stood at the microphone in front of the Justice Center at 200 S. Tucker Blvd., to read what he said was an account from an inmate — from uncomfortably cold interior temperatures, to lack of food, to ill-fitting clothes, the inmate's account echoed concerns previously relayed by activists and organizations.

“We’re out here today saying this is unacceptable. St. Louis taxpayers’ money should not be used to commit violations of the Geneva Convention and every other human rights law that has ever been passed, and we are not going to stand for it, and nobody else should,” Winston said.

At the same time as the protest — which was shortly after St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced a task force assigned to investigate the situation at the jail — Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner also announced that her office had opened an investigation into any public health or other human rights violations committed against detainees. It will also seek to determine how those may have contributed to the unrest.

“Violence of any kind, particularly against law enforcement officials, is unacceptable,” Gardner wrote. “We will ensure there is full accountability. But while some are calling for the immediate prosecution of the detainees involved, this situation demands further scrutiny. Reports from the families of detainees, public defenders and other advocates raise serious questions about the underlying health and safety conditions at the City Justice Center, including whether or not appropriate protocols have been followed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

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