Home » Black lawmakers cite racism as Missouri House OKs crime bill

Black lawmakers cite racism as Missouri House OKs crime bill

by The Grio

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Racial tensions in Mississippi echoed in Missouri Thursday, as Black Democratic lawmakers accused the state’s Republican House leadership of racism for shutting down a Black lawmaker’s speech and passing a bill that could strip power from the Black woman elected as prosecutor in St. Louis.

The discord in the Missouri House came just days after a similar situation in Mississippi, where Black lawmakers denounced the majority-white, Republican-led Legislature for voting to take power away from local leaders in the predominantly Black city of Jackson.

Like in Mississippi, Missouri’s legislature has a largely white Republican majority. Most of the Black lawmakers represent the state’s two largest urban areas of St. Louis and Kansas City.

Missouri Republicans have made anti-crime legislation a priority this session, often highlighting high crime rates in St. Louis as an impetus. The House passed legislation by a 109-35 vote that would allow Republican Gov. Mike Parson to appoint a special prosecutor to handle violent crimes in areas with high homicide rates, such as St. Louis. The bill also would expand mandatory minimum sentences for persistent felony offenders, among other things.

State Rep. Kevin Windham, a Black Democrat from St. Louis County, was reading aloud a news article about the Mississippi situation during the House debate when some white Republican lawmakers objected that his speech had nothing to do with the Missouri legislation.

House Speaker Dean Plocher ruled Windham out of order, halting his speech. Windham’s microphone was turned off. House Majority Leader Jon Patterson then made a motion to shut off debate on the bill, which the Republican majority voted to do — leaving other Black Democrats standing without getting a turn to speak.

Black lawmakers were outraged.

“It’s racist to not allow him to speak,” Rep. Marlene Terry, a…

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