Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) has come under fire for her statement defending the “extremely violent” mayhem from the prison rioters at a St. Louis jail Saturday, empathizing with them by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr by calling it an acceptable form of protest and saying she would work to address their grievances.
The chaos in the downtown St. Louis jail erupted early Saturday morning when inmates at the City Justice Center led an hours-long window-smashing and fire-starting melee after a prisoner jumped a guard. It took over eight hours for correction officers to bring an end to the “extremely violent” pandemonium.
“‘A riot is the language of the unheard,'” Bush tweeted, quoting Martin Luther King Jr.
“I want to talk to my constituents in the window. Their lives and their rights must be protected,” Bush added, referring her the inmates. “My team and I are working to ensure that the urgent needs of people who are incarcerated are not ignored.”
Bush, whose congressional district includes St. Louis, also released a statement decrying the “unsafe and unsanitary conditions” following the St. Louis uprising where she called for “full transparency and human rights protections.”
“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,” Bush’s statement reads. “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.”
Bush’s tweet has drawn criticism for her hypocrisy, reminding her of the different tone she took just a month ago following the Capitol riot on Jan 6.
“Aren’t they just thugs like the Capitol rioters? Or were the Capitol rioters the ‘unheard’ also? Which way do you want it?” one user tweeted in response.
“Exactly a month ago you were saying riots were dangerous and a threat to democracy. Good to know that riots are OK now,” another user posted.
In response to Bush’s use of the Martin Luther King quote “riot is the language of the unheard,” a Twitter user tweeteddrew comparison to the Capitol riot: “I think that argument fell out of favor about 32 days ago.”
As the riot unfolded on Jan 6, Bush blamed President Trump in a tweet commenting on the Capitol siege.
“The President of the United States has incited a riot that has now stormed the Capitol. There are rioters roaming the halls of the Capitol. I saw them with my own eyes. Our country deserves better,” Bush tweeted on Jan 6.
In a separate tweet, Bush tweeted a clip of an MSNBC appearance on the same day: “This coup attempt is white supremacy in action. The Republican members who incited the attack on our U.S. Capitol by working to overturn the results of this election must be expelled from Congress.”
Video and photos posted on social media showed inmates standing near three windows on the fourth floor that had been smashed. The inmates held up messages that appeared to be written on trays, mostly saying “Free.” It is reported that the inmates were rioting over concerns about unsafe conditions amid the Coronavirus pandemic as well as the limitation of court proceedings.
About 115 detainees trashed the jail, clogging toilets and flooding floors, a mayoral spokesman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. About 65 were transferred to a different institution after the incident.
Law enforcement officers used tear gas to regain control. By 10 a.m. all of the inmates were back in custody.
It was the third disturbance at the jail in recent weeks, the Post-Dispatch said. Another occurred the last week of December and a second just days later. In those cases, inmates had expressed concern about unsafe conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic.