O'FALLON, Mo. -- St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson knows the trauma of violence — she and her children were present when her first husband was shot to death 25 years ago during an attempted carjacking. She was elected on a pledge to curb violence in her city.
Amid that backdrop, it’s not surprising that calls to “defund” police don’t sit well with her.
But Krewson went a step further: She publicly revealed the names and addresses of anti-police protesters, a decision that drew extra criticism in the tense weeks following George Floyd’s death at the hands of a white Minneapolis officer who pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck. More than 50,000 people have signed a petition calling for her resignation.
Releasing the names and addresses was dangerous “because you never know what someone else will do with that information,” Aldermanic President Lewis Reed said Tuesday.
Alderwoman Megan Green said Krewson's action was “designed to intimidate and to quell dissent and to stop a movement that is happening not just locally" but across the country.
Jeff and Lyda Krewson and their two small children were returning home from shopping in 1995 when two carjackers approached with guns. Jeff Krewson was fatally shot in the neck as he tried to back the car away. Lyda Krewson and her children, ages 2 and 5, were not hurt.
St. Louis was violent then, as it is now. The city of 300,000 people that is about evenly split between Black and white residents typically has one of the nation's highest murder rates, and 2020 is shaping up to be another brutal year.
It’s also a region with a long history of racial strife that boiled over in 2014 when a white officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was Black, in nearby Ferguson. Officer Darren Wilson was cleared of wrongdoing and eventually resigned, and the shooting drew attention to the uneasy relationship between St. Louis-area police and Black residents.
Krewson, 67, who is white, defeated three high-profile Black candidates in the March 2017 Democratic primary, helped by an endorsement from the police union. She won easily in the April general election.
Protests again erupted months later after a white former police officer, Jason Stockley, was acquitted in the death of a Black suspect. During a downtown demonstration in September 2017, more than 120 people were arrested, some violently, including bystanders and journalists. On another night, protesters broke windows and threw paint on Krewson's home.
Floyd’s death reignited tensions in St. Louis. Speaking live on Facebook on Friday, Krewson said she had met with protesters who presented her with written suggestions for the city budget, including proposals to cut funding for police. She read the names and addresses of some of the demonstrators.
It was not clear why she did so. She later removed the video and apologized, saying on Twitter that she “didn’t intend to harm anyone or cause distress.” But the response was angry and swift.
Protesters marched to Krewson’s home Sunday night and painted the word “RESIGN” on the street. The protest drew national attention when widely circulated video showed a white couple standing outside their nearby mansion and pointing guns at passing protesters. Their attorney said they support the Black Lives Matter movement and were armed because they feared for their lives.
Other mayors have also found themselves under siege.
When protesters marched to the home of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey days after Floyd’s death, Frey was booed off the street after declining to support calls for abolishing the police department.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has faced pressure to resign during weeks of protests over police accountability. Just as in St. Louis, demonstrators and some City Council members have sought a drastic reduction in the law enforcement budget.
Krewson’s spokesman, Jacob Long, said the mayor was unavailable for an interview but has no intention of resigning and plans to seek a second term.
Anita Manion, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, said the moment may simply be too big for Krewson to survive politically.
“I feel the current movement isn’t something that’s going to go away quickly, and I don’t think that a lot of St. Louisans are going to forget this,” Manion said.
Removal from office seems unlikely since it would require a recall vote, and obtaining enough signatures to trigger a special election would take several months at a time when the next mayoral election is just eight months away.
Going forward, Krewson supports “common-sense police reforms and has committed to a comprehensive review of use-of-force policies," Long said.
For Reed, Krewson's actions will be what ultimately matters.
“You cannot afford to be tone-deaf,” Reed said.
Associated Press writers Margaret Stafford in Liberty, Missouri, and Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas, contributed to this report.