Block these streets, not those.

I have heard so many people say that they support protesting, but not to block the streets because it is inconvenient to commuters. The protesters in St. Louis are fighting against the abuse of the black community in the city, and part of that abuse is a long history of blocking streets.

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Road blockages like this one are all over St. Louis, and they can be a real pain if you don’t know which particular street you have to go down to access certain neighborhoods. It started in the 1970’s and since then the city of St. Louis has blocked over 260 streets. But why? The city gives a lot of reasons, like diverting traffic to thoroughfares, and blocking crime from migrating from one neighborhood to another.

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However, the more you drive around St. Louis, the more you realize that these barriers are often not built to prevent specific activities, but specific people from accessing different areas to the city. When a predominantly white neighborhood grows within or beside a predominantly African American community, the roads that those African Americans have been driving on for decades, to and from work, school, restaurants, and relatives are suddenly impassable. Bus routes change, adding extra miles to their regular commutes, which often take well over an hour already due to the city building infrastructure to better facilitate white neighborhoods.

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The resounding message is this: People of color are not welcome here. We do not want you on our streets, or near our homes. We do not trust you on our sidewalks, or around our families. You may live one block away, but we do not want to see you, hear you, or think about you. You do not matter to us. If you cross this line, even to walk through to the next neighborhood over, we will treat you with disdain, we will mistrust you, and we will call the police to come and question you. We don’t care what the outcome is, just stay away from here.

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I understand that you think that it was wrong for protesters to block the flow of traffic on the highway yesterday evening for 40 minutes. But shouldn’t it make you more angry that the city of St. Louis has been blocking the flow of traffic for people of color for decades? Not for 40 minutes, but constantly. Not on one intersection, but on 262 intersections. The protesters blocked some people from getting home to dinner on time, but the city is blocking entire communities from jobs, food availability, education, and economic growth, all while enforcing stereotypes and fear between adjacent communities.

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