A Surreal Weekend in St. Louis

You may have heard that there was turmoil in St. Louis this past weekend. A judge acquitted a white police officer for shooting a black man in 2011. There were protests in a number of places across St. Louis, most of them peaceful, but during several of them, several small businesses were damaged. You can read a more robust version of the background and events here.

I live within walking distance of two of the areas where peaceful protests turned into more violent, destructive gatherings. However–this is going to sound incredibly naive–despite my close proximity to these protests, I didn’t know about them until after they happened.

This was particularly surreal because I was out in the midst of St. Louis culture on Friday night. I walked with a group of friends from my neighborhood to the St. Louis Balloon Glow in Forest Park. Here’s what it looked like:

Check out the photos at the end of this post for a broader perspective. There were a LOT of people at this event.

It wasn’t until Saturday morning that I learned that a peaceful protest had turned into a violent event where 9 police officers were injured and windows were broken at local businesses, a library, and event the mayor’s house…all within about a mile of the balloon glow.

This isn’t a statement about the protests; rather, it’s an observation about how a city can be many things at the same time. This is often despite the media portrayal. Would U2 or Ed Sheeran still have cancelled their concerts if they had seen footage of balloon glow?

I’ve now lived in St. Louis for 18 years, my entire adult life. I love it here. The city is far from perfect, and like any place in America, there’s a lot of work to be done to prevent senseless violence and create racial equality. But I cringe whenever I see St. Louis portrayed through a single lens–it deserves far more than that.

Because while Friday and Saturday sometimes looked like this:

It also looked like this:

 


5 Responses to “A Surreal Weekend in St. Louis”

  1. Joseph E. Pilkus III says:

    Jamey,

    My heart goes out to the people of St. Louis. While I live in VA, I spend quite a bit of time in D.C. with my girlfriend, and I’m often amazed at the way people of different races are treated in the city while in other areas, all races blend together harmoniously as one people.

    Peace,
    Joe

  2. Charles Dionne says:

    Great post, Jamey. Definitely hits home since the city I now call home has seen a sharp increase in homicides over the last few years placing it near the top in murders per capita. I’ve seen people suggesting that we should burn the city to the ground and in the last couple of weeks I’ve read comments by people hoping Harvey and Irma would hit New Orleans and flood the city for good. Crime and violence is unfortunately often the first target of headlines but it’s incredibly misguided to reduce the image of a city to the actions of a minority of people. New Orleans is such a beautiful and unique blend of cultures and while, like you for St. Louis, will be the first to admit that it’s far from perfect, I’m proud to call it home. Thanks for sharing your photos!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Charles: Well said–cities like St. Louis and New Orleans can be many things, and it’s unfortunate when they’re only viewed one way, especially when there are so many people who are proud to live in these places!

  3. Nick H says:

    I used to love the Hot Air Balloon festival as a kid growing up in STL. Glad to see they are still doing it. When we didn’t go to the park to see them we could always see a few fly over our house which was awesome as a kid. As for your post I couldn’t agree more. The media follows the violence because it gets them ratings.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      That’s a great point about ratings (unfortunately!). This was the biggest balloon glow I’ve seen yet. They put it right in front of the art museum this year (on Art Hill), which provided some awesome views.

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