A faulty locking system allowed about 115 prisoners at the St. Louis City Justice Center to escape over the weekend. They took control of the fourth floor of the facility, breaking windows, setting fires and injuring at least one prison guard. It wasn't until the guards released tear gas that the situation got under control and the inmates were again back in custody.
"Everybody housed at the Justice Center is housed there because of very serious offenses like assault on police officers and homicide and things of that sort,” the city’s director of public safety, Jimmie Edwards.
Instead of condemning the scene, Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) essentially showed solidarity with the prisoners on Twitter, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to suggest their cause was a just one.
“A riot is the language of the unheard.” - Dr. MLK Jr.— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) February 7, 2021
I want to talk to my constituents in the window. Their lives and their rights must be protected.
My team and I are working to ensure that the urgent needs of people who are incarcerated are not ignored. https://t.co/wMq8ecyLQ2
She added a lengthier statement on her congressional page, largely criticizing the justice system and its lax COVID protocols instead of the violence that took place in the jail.
“What we saw today—and have been seeing at the St. Louis City Justice Center (CJC)—must be addressed immediately,” said Congresswoman Cori Bush. “Long before today, our jails have been notorious for their unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
“We have an incarceration crisis. To date, 1 in 5 incarcerated people nationally has tested positive for COVID-19, including many across the City of St. Louis. I am concerned that the conditions for people who are incarcerated pose serious risks to their health, safety, and wellbeing as well as that of those who work there.
“I am calling for complete transparency and accountability from the city of St. Louis. Officials must publicly disclose the city’s COVID-19 testing protocols, case rate and hospitalization data, vaccination plans, use of solitary confinement, and transfer procedures for its local jails. Additionally, following two previous uprisings at CJC, our community needs information about any actions taken to address concerns raised by people in detention, some of whom are simply being held because they cannot afford bail.
“I have been in contact with local government officials and community leaders since I became aware of the incident early this morning. My team and I are taking steps to reach out to the impacted families and communities to figure out the path forward to justice. I want to ensure that the demands made by those being held at CJC are not ignored, and I plan to investigate this further. There needs to be a plan to improve conditions and decarcerate.
“My thoughts are with all those who have been harmed or injured during today’s events. To everyone involved, especially those in the system and their families, know that you have a Congresswoman who loves everyone in our community and who wants to hear directly from you. If you have information about the conditions that people who are incarcerated are living under in our community—or for any other needs my office can help you with during this time—please call or leave a message with my office at 314-955-9980 to share your story.”
Seeing her statement, the National Republican Congressional Committee wondered if any of her fellow Democrats would denounce her comments.
As one social media user aptly observed, “Exactly a month ago you were saying riots were dangerous and a threat to democracy. Good to know that riots are OK now.”
Because the mob that stormed the Capitol was comprised of former President Trump supporters, Democrats demanded Republicans denounce the deadly riots. And many of them did just that.