Jeff Rainford, Slay's chief of staff, refused to say if the city met with the Downtown Partnership last week, but insisted that the complaints are coming from many, not only the Partnership.In documents obtained from a Missouri Sunshine Law request, I have found conclusive evidence that officials from the Mayor's office did meet with the Downtown Partnership to discuss OccupySTL. In fact, an email sent from Maggie Campbell, the President and CEO of the Downtown Partnership, suggests that the St. Louis group had been communicating with "counterpart organizations" around the country with the express goal of "unoccupying public parks." Campbell is forwarding an email from Jane Jenkins of Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc. about a man found dead in a tent at Occupy Oklahoma City. Here's the exact quote from Campbell's Oct. 31st email to Jeff Rainford (Chief of Staff for the Mayor) and Sam Dotson (Director of Operations for the City of St. Louis):
"There are lots of people complaining. I'm not going to point at one versus the other," he said. "I'm not going to get into it. What I would prefer not to happen is to have this personalized."
The city, he said, would not meet with occupiers today, nor would it discuss the issue in the press.
Fyi - newsflash from Oklahoma City - we are talking weekly with counterpart organizations in dozens of American cities, learning that more of them are moving forward with local plans to unoccupy local parks and return them to a condition that everyone can use them, while still allowing for the right to assemble and protest without taking possession of public space. We look forward to our meeting tomorrow to discuss this issue further, and we appreciate your support and thoughtful guidance.I've uploaded the document to DocStoc, blocking out emails and phone numbers for the people involved. I can make the original, unaltered version available for any press who are interested in following up. Here's the document:
If it is true that the meeting with the Downtown Partnership is what promted the City to evict Occupy St. Louis from Kiener Plaza, this seems like an important example of exactly what the movement is complaining about: city policy being determined by business elites. Why should the city of St. Louis bow to pressure from groups like Bank of America who have a vested interest in shutting down protests that remind the public of their unethical and likely illegal behavior?
I think this also suggests that people in other large cities should also start investigating the communication between their city governments and the local downtown association. It sounds like St. Louis was just one of any number of city's where local business groups pressured the city's to crack down on protesters.