ST. LOUIS (AP) — After defeating several black candidates, the new white mayor of St. Louis is carefully navigating racial strife that culminated in days of protest over the acquittal of a white former police officer who fatally shot a black suspect.
Lyda Krewson watched as her city and some suburbs filled for days with thousands of protesters angry at the acquittal and upset with broader issues of racial inequality. The mayor says St. Louis can be a leader in addressing inequity, but she also faces criticism from those who want her to do more and pushback from others who want strong support for police or insist racism is not an issue.
“At the end of the day, she doesn’t ever want to come off as being insensitive to the anger and the frustration that people are exemplifying as a result of the verdict,” said Democratic state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, who is black. “However, she doesn’t want to go too far and not be supportive of law enforcement. It’s a balancing act for her.”
Protesters took to the streets Friday after a judge acquitted Jason Stockley of first-degree murder for fatally shooting 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011.
While the protests have been mostly nonviolent, there was some vandalism and unrest in the hours after organized demonstrations ended last weekend. Police in some instances have given demonstrators a wide berth and essentially acted as traffic control.
But in other cases, including when a window at Krewson’s home was broken Friday, hundreds of officers in riot gear responded with tear gas and pepper spray.
The mayor, who took office in April, has stressed that peaceful protests should be protected but violence and vandalism will not be tolerated. She downplayed the incident at her home.
“I’m not the story here,” she said. “I got a few broken windows. They are replaced.”
From the start, her term as mayor has been marked by racial division in the city. She narrowly won a crowded Democratic primary in March after dominating in mostly white south St. Louis. City Treasurer Tishaura Jones and two other black candidates split the vote on the predominantly black north side, and Krewson defeated Jones by fewer than 900 votes.
Nasheed said there is lingering bitterness and frustration that a black candidate was not elected to lead the city, which is 49 percent black, 44 percent white and heavily Democratic.
Krewson said she’s trying to represent people of color by “going to them, talking to them, having people in my cabinet who represent that…