In early August, Saint Louis hosted the Racial Equity Summit. This year’s event was conducted via a virtual format and highlighted major inequities throughout our society, but it also offered timely discussions as to how we could all move forward. The summit included speakers such as Edgar Villanueva, Angela Davis, and Adrienne Maree Brown. In addition, we also heard from national speakers and local activists who have each advocated for change. They were able to articulate the steps that were needed to change our own communities.
However, while the Racial Equity Summit was teaching important concepts as being unequivocally who you are, and minority inclusion in the non-profit sector, something else was occurring in our own backyards. During the moments that many of us were invested in positive change and were engaging in educational discussions and promoting growth, pardons were being issued to a Saint Louis couple who wielded deadly weapons on peaceful protestors for simply walking in their community.
In 2020, Mark and Patricia McCloskey made national headlines for brandishing firearms on several hundred St. Louis Black Lives Matter demonstrators who were en route to protest in front of Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home. The couple pleaded guilty in June to misdemeanor charges, and each were to pay fines without facing jail time, but this past week, Governor Mike Parson issued them a pardon. Before and after the pardon, Mr. Mark McCloskey has stated that if he faced the same situation again, he would conduct himself in the same manner. He added that he felt his actions were vindicated by the governor’s pardon.
These pardons show the grave injustices in our criminal justice system. While the McCloskeys received pardons, others like Kevin Strickland and Lamar Johnson, two men who even prosecutors say are innocent, remain behind bars and aren’t extended that same treatment. Lamar Johnson has spent 26 years incarcerated for a crime that St. Louis Prosecutors say he didn’t commit. Prosecutors say two other men admitted to the crime and that witnesses were able to account for Johnson’s whereabouts the evening of the crime. They added that the eye witness who identified Johnson lacked credibility. Another inmate, Kevin Strickland, has spent more than 40 years in prison for a crime that federal prosecutors say he also didn’t commit. Neither of these cases has been granted a pardon. The contrast between the treatment of these two incarcerated individuals vs the McCloskeys shows us in plain sight the miscarriages of justice in our criminal justice system. They deserve the governor’s attention!
While the Racial Equity Summit highlighted how far we have come as a society, the aforementioned examples of justice in our criminal justice system is a constant reminder of how far we need to go to achieve true equity. Until men like Lamar Johnson and Kevin Strickland are afforded the same treatment as the McCloskeys, it is then when we will move closer to racial equity.
Criminal Justice Policy Manager