By Comrade Blue
SAINT LOUIS: Amid all the tension between the working and ruling classes during this pandemic, we find one thing clear: all the class dynamics that existed before the COVID-19 epidemic are exacerbated by this newfound panic. Working people struggle even more to get food on their tables. As people are put out of work without pay, landlords are still wrongfully demanding rent. Eviction notices are still wrongfully served. While the City of St. Louis has since halted carrying out eviction notices during the pandemic, the decision was made too late.
Joshua Kessinger was a 37 year old man living in an apartment complex on Beverly Place, just north of Delmar in St. Louis, MO. Two sheriff’s deputies came to serve an eviction notice on March 10th, several days after restaurants and stores began to close and lay off their employees over coronavirus concerns. Kessinger refused to comply with the eviction notice, as is his right. The deputies say he was combative, but he is also said to have had struggles with mental illness, and likely wasn’t even in a good headspace at the time.
One of the deputies drew his taser, and somehow managed to murder Kessinger. The deputies are unsure if he was even struck by the taser or not, which is sketchy. Inconsistency is sketchy, especially when it comes to police. It is unclear how exactly he died, but it is clear that Kessinger was murdered by one of the deputies. A St. Louis sheriff’s deputy murdered a man over an eviction in the middle of a global pandemic. The police just cost someone else in Saint Louis their life. And, adding further insult to injury, the deputies involved in the murder of Joshua Kessinger are currently placed on paid administrative leave while the working class of St. Louis is being laid off from work, often without any pay, and being told to file for unemployment.
This is exactly why For The People has a list of demands during the COVID-19 crisis. They are as follows:
- Eviction and rent freezes
- Public utility shutoff freezes
- Universal paid sick leave
- Free testing and treatment for COVID-19
- Free food/necessities for all in quarantine
- Immediate release of those being held in jail on cash bond and closing of all courts for the duration of the emergency.
- Immediate compassionate release for immunocompromised and elderly prisoners in light of their increased risk for contraction and death from COVID-19.
In no world does anyone deserve to lose their life over an eviction notice. Evictions are cruel and inhumane during normal times, but this is an especially horrible time to not have housing. Our unhoused populations have been completely abandoned during this pandemic, and are at an extra high risk without the food, shelter, or access to medical care they need to survive this. St. Louis is notorious for abandoning its unhoused population during times of emergency and crisis, as there is not a single 24/7 emergency walk-in shelter here. Options are limited, and countless unhoused people die during extreme heat and extreme winter conditions. This pandemic will be no different, especially now that all St. Louis libraries are closed for the foreseeable future. Kessinger did not deserve this, and the working class of St. Louis does not deserve this.
So what do we do? We seize the time. Don’t ask for housing; take it. Everyone is entitled to a roof over their heads, especially in a place with more abandoned homes than unhoused people. Landlords do not supply anyone with housing; construction workers do. Housing and basic utilities are a right.
UPDATE: Sheriff’s deputies were attempting to evict Kessinger under an order of protection, also known as a restraining order. Our position remains the same. We support the formation of People’s Self-Defense Corps to handle these situations without the involvement of the police and sheriffs. They do not make things better.