st. LOUIS — St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner said Tuesday she will run for reelection next year and is “not afraid” of ongoing efforts by state lawmakers to remove her from office and strip her of her power.
A packed sanctuary of supporters at the West Side Missionary Baptist Church on Page Boulevard stood and applauded as Gardner launched into a fiery speech decrying “unelected” Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s lawsuit seeking her removal. Bailey, who took office in January, was appointed by Gov. Mike Parson after Eric Schmitt was elected to the US Senate.
“This quo warrant is baseless. It’s foolishness, but let’s go,” she told the cheering crowd. “Let’s go.”
Tuesday’s event, billed as a criminal justice reform roundtable, featured more than two hours of speeches and questions from clergy, activists, attorneys and nonprofit leaders expressing support for Gardner, who they said faced unfair and racist attacks from powerful people in a “corrupt, failed and rigged” the system that she did her best to reform. Neither media nor attendees were permitted to ask questions.
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“I support her as a young, Black woman who is demonstrating for the world to see how she has the tenacity, strength and courage to lead the reform of the criminal justice system,” said Lew Moye, former president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, to thunderous applause.
The event marked Gardner’s second public event since a firestorm erupted over a 17-year-old volleyball player from Tennessee who was seriously injured in a car crash while visiting downtown St. Louis. Both of the girl’s legs were amputated. The man charged with causing the wreck had a pending robbery case and remained free despite violating his bond dozens of times.
Adversaries and former allies alike called for Gardner’s resignation after years of criticism over organizational dysfunction in her office. State lawmakers ramped up an effort that would strip her of the power to prosecute the most violent felonies, and Bailey sued to remove her, arguing she had been negligent in office.
Gardner previously held a press conference surrounded by supporters in a packed mezzanine outside her courthouse office in which she called Bailey’s lawsuit a “political stunt.”
Then, last week, her office announced it would hold a roundtable to discuss “current challenges and opportunities” for St. Louis residents facing violent crime and for reducing people’s involvement with the justice system.
She appeared during the final hour of Tuesday’s event and fielded questions from her diversion specialist, Reddit Hudson, who determined the ongoing removal effort and multiple “gaffes” by reporters who he said jumped to negative, false conclusions about Gardner’s office.
Gardner said the criticism had been difficult but added that the challenges were the result of her work reforming systems and taking on powerful people, including Republican lawmakers like the former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and bad police officers.
She said efforts by state officials to remove her were actually attempts to disenfranchise people in St. Louis who voted overwhelmingly for her in 2016 and again for a second term in 2020.
Her supporters urged the packed house to continue supporting Gardner.
“Despite it all,” she said, “we have done our job.”
Photos: Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner speaks during criminal justice reform event
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