February 8, 2021
Freshman Democratic Rep. Cori Bush (Mo.) was sharply criticized over the weekend after she seemingly defended prisoners who started a riot at the St. Louis County Jail.
What’s the background?
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the riot started early Saturday morning after an angry inmate attacked a guard. City officials blamed a “faulty locking system” that allowed about 115 inmates to escape their cells and participate in the mayhem.
The inmates took control of the jail’s fourth floor and caused widespread damage, “where they set fires, clogged toilets, flooded parts of the floor and caused other damage,” the Post-Dispatch reported.
“These were just very angry, defiant, very violent people that we house at the Justice Center,” the city’s director of public safety, Jimmie Edwards, said. “No one at the Justice Center is housed for a misdemeanor, a municipal offense or a low-level felony. 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.”
What did Bush say?
In response, Bush seemingly defended the prisoners, empathizing with them by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“‘A riot is the language of the unheard.’ – Dr. MLK Jr,” Bush began “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.”
“A riot is the language of the unheard.” – Dr. MLK Jr.
I want to talk to my constituents in the window. Their live… https://t.co/NVWXkYwBDR
— Cori Bush (@Cori Bush)1612657406.0
Bush, whose congressional district includes St. Louis, also released a statement decrying the conditions of the criminal justice system. The statement called for “full transparency and human rights protections.”
What was the response?
Bush was criticized because, just one month ago, she was condemning riots, the one at the U.S. Capitol that she claimed then-President Donald Trump “incited.”
“Our country deserves better,” Bush tweeted at the time.
In fact, many critics said that Bush was engaging in hypocrisy by seemingly defending one riot while condemning another.
- “Aren’t they just thugs like the Capitol rioters ? Or were the Capitol rioters the ‘unheard’ also? Which way do you want it ?” one person responded.
- “Riots are.good again…
I love how they never post that full MLK quote,” another person
- “So does this quote by MLK apply to the January 6 riot?” another person responded.
- “Riots are great again unless a bunch of whites from the trailer park are doing it, in which case it’s domestic terrorism,” one person said.
- “Entering the Capitol without permission is terrorism but a prison riot is a peaceful protest,” another person responded.
- “You support riots @CoriBush? According to the link, “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.” How does this fit with your resolution in the #HouseOfHypocrites?” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) responded.
- “‘Riots are socially destructive and self-defeating… So I will continue to condemn riots, and continue to say to my brothers and sisters that this is not the way. And continue to affirm that there is another way.’ Dr. MLK Jr. (in the same speech Cori Bush is quoting),” another person noted.
Law enforcement eventually used tear gas to control the riot. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said the violence was over by 10 a.m. on Saturday.