A comunity meeting in St. Louis erupted into chaos on Wednesday after a police union official pushed a black woman over disagreements regarding efforts to ease tensions between law enforcement and the area’s African American community.
The public forum, held at St. Louis City Hall, was about a proposal to create a civilian review board with the authority to look into allegations of police misconduct leveled by members of the public and report those findings to police and civilian leaders. The board’s members would be selected by the mayor and approved by the Board of Aldermen.
The scuffle broke out about an hour into the meeting, which was reportedly peaceful up until that point, with people alternately speaking out for and against the creation of the new body.
According to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a handful of people at the meeting started shouting after a number of police officers spoke out against the proposal. The officers argued that adding civilian oversight would take away their ability to get due process for their actions in the line of duty.
At that point, Democratic State Rep. Jeff Roorda, who also serves as the business manager for the St. Louis police union, stood up and called for order. A crowd quickly gathered around him and, as he attempted to leave the room, he forcibly pushed Catchet Currie, an African American woman, out of his way. The St. Louis American reports that her face was scratched in the process.
Here is a video of the incident, which occurs at about one minute into the clip:
“I was literally just trying to leave the meeting and I got caught in whatever Roorda and [meeting leader Alderman Terry] Kennedy had going on in their exchange,” Currie told KMOV. “Roorda just jumped out into the aisle, pushed me over, and tried to get to Kennedy. I’m like ‘wait a minute, don’t push me.’ Then he started going off on me, pushing me.”
Roorda insisted to KMOW that he did not push Currie.
Immediately following the altercation, the meeting erupted into a melee.
— Robert Cohen (@kodacohen) January 29, 2015
Pictures of Roorda that evening show that he was wearing an “I Am Darren Wilson” wristband during the incident.
Look at Roorda's pose….the bracelet.
Pushing that woman was not the first fight he was looking for tonight. pic.twitter.com/fdfm3GbG67
— Jillian Hurley (@BeautyBind) January 29, 2015
Despite the fracas, no one at the meeting was arrested.
Tensions in the St. Louis area have run especially high since the shooting death of unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown at the hands of Darren Wilson, a police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. Brown’s death triggered a wave of protests and violent clashes with police, and a grand jury decision not to indict Wilson sparked demonstrations across the country.
Photo via Loavesofbread/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)