St. Louis Public Radio — If you’ve paying attention to the discourse in the race for Missouri governor, you’ve probably heard a lot about what Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Koster didn’t do during the unrest in Ferguson in 2014.
In fact, several Republican gubernatorial hopefuls accused Koster of being “absent” during the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death. It’s the type of message that serves a dual purpose of questioning Koster’s commitment to law enforcement and leadership skills. (Republican gubernatorial nominee Eric Greitens told a swarm of reporters after he won the GOP primary that Koster “failed to show up and to lead in Ferguson.”)
It will be up to Missouri voters to decide whether Koster’s actions in Ferguson two years ago were effective. But it’s inaccurate to say that Koster was “absent.”
Numerous news reports, photographs and tweets show Koster was present during the day and after nightfall in Ferguson. Back in August 2014, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies reported that Koster “has been in regular contact with law enforcement as part of his job.” She also reported that, according a spokesman, Koster had “visited schools in the north county area in recent days to talk to students and listen to their concerns.”
At a news conference last week, Koster offered more detail on his activities in Ferguson.
“I was the first statewide, elected official at the command center. I was the first statewide, elected official down at the line. I was the first statewide, elected official to cross the line and to interact with members of the community,” Koster said. “I was the first statewide, elected official on the street after nightfall. I held meetings in schools, meetings with elected officials, meetings with the ministerial community.”
It only takes a quick Google search to find a number of instances where Koster was in Ferguson. He made a speech on Aug. 17 at the Greater St. Mark Family Church (which is close to Ferguson) with the Rev. Al Sharpton. Among other things, Koster told the crowd that he had come “to pray with you and grieve with you, because you have lost a member of your community.”
“But it’s much more than that,” Koster said at the time. “You have a lost a member of your community at the hands of a member of my community. Not just the Caucasian community, but the law enforcement community. And that is painful to every good-hearted person in this city.”
And on the evening of Aug. 19, Koster held an impromptu news conference in Ferguson to announce that a grand jury would convene to look into Brown’s shooting death.
“I know that I was there,” Koster said last week. “I know that thousands of people saw me there.”