Photo Essay: A Trip Through North St. Louis

Photo Essay: A Trip Through North St. Louis

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Editor's Note: The police killing of Michael Brown has sparked protests in North St. Louis and outrage across the country. Silicon Valley De-Bug was in North St. Louis just weeks before the shooting of Michael Brown, and captured some photos that tell a story of police power, political corruption, and a community left to fend for itself.

In a town neighboring Ferguson, called Pine Lawn, the mayor puts his name on all police vehicles. On the front of the van it also reads, "This is a zero tolerance community."

An image we saw often was community members being told to sit on a curb by police. When we took this shot, another group of black teenagers was being detained by police on a curb just half a block away.

In this town next to Ferguson, houses are run down, and many are vacant. This is due to a host of new permits the mayor has imposed for any resident to maintain the well-being of their home. To paint a home, a permit is needed; to clean out the rain gutters a permit is needed. People can't afford the permits, so the homes are left to got to waste. Here, a local organizer shows a typical "porch."

Even before the killing of Michael Brown, the presence of police could be felt in North St. Louis. This is one of many signs about maintaining order, and the consequence of not following the changing rules.


In one of the most astonishing displays of political gamesmanship we've seen by an elected official, the mayor arrests community leaders, then puts out a newspaper with their mugshots.

This is the only park available to families in Pine Lawn, in North St. Louis. As the image shows, it is overgrown with weeds, has broken-down play equipment, and is utterly neglected.

Ironically, just a couple of minutes away from the park pictured above is a new, nicely maintained park. But it is not open to public use, and is only used for mayor-sponsored events. Minutes after this image was taken, police showed up to ask our purpose for standing near the park.

Community members told us that police would approach us as soon as word got out that there were cameras in the city. Sure enough, we were asked about our activities shortly after our arrival.