ST. LOUIS—After a long battle to stay in office, the now former St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner has been replaced by former Assistant U.S. Attorney Gabe Gore. Mr. Gore was appointed as the new St. Louis Circuit Attorney on May 19 by Missouri Governor Mike Parson. Atty. Gore was among 18 candidates who applied for Ms. Gardner’s position after she resigned May 16, two weeks before expected.
After several interviews and considerations, two final candidates were left, Atty. Gore and Judge Paula Bryant. Many activists, including civil rights Attorney Jeryl Christmas, supported Atty. Gardner during her tenure and requested the governor select Judge Bryant. However, to their disappointment, Atty. Gore was his choice.
“I have an issue with the governor’s choice because this attorney worked for the same law firm, Dowd and Bennett, which represented former Governor Eric Greitens against Kim Gardner in the Greitens case,” said Atty. Christmas.
On May 4, Atty. Kimberly Gardner announced her plan to step down as the city’s chief prosecuting attorney on June 1. But on May 16, she officially resigned as the city’s first Black woman circuit attorney. Her decision came after many months of being pressured by Missouri’s Attorney General Andrew Bailey to resign from office. Atty. Gardner submitted a letter explaining her reason for resigning.
She said her decision to leave office was centered around rushed legislation that would exert more state control over her office and would take the power of the vote away from the citizens of St. Louis. According to several local media reports, Missouri lawmakers filed a bill seeking to strip her of most of her power. Atty. Gardner struck a deal to step down in exchange for lawmakers dropping the bill.
“I can absorb these attacks, and I have, but I can neither enable nor allow the outright disenfranchisement of the people of the City of St. Louis nor can I allow these outsiders to effectively shut down our important work,” she wrote in a released statement. Atty. Gardner’s tenure in office as the city’s first Black Circuit Attorney began in 2016, but it has not been an easy job for her. Atty. Gardner has fought to maintain order and control in her office since being elected.
However, the tremendous backlash and criticism against her has forced her to step down, argued her supporters. Her resignation came as a shock to many supporters and community leaders who have stood by her side throughout her journey. Her replacement, Atty. Gore is also Black.
On May 16, a couple of dozen of her supporters appeared for the Quo Warranto hearing scheduled by Missouri’s attorney general in his case against Atty. Gardner, but after her resignation the morning of the hearing, those proceedings ceased.
Adolphus M. Pruitt, president of the St. Louis branch of the NAACP, told The Final Call, “What I’ll say about what just happened with Kim Gardner is, a lynching of a Black woman. So, all Black elected officials in the state of Missouri need to pay close attention to what just happened to Kim Gardner, because you just saw a modern-day lynching and you can be next.”
He added, “Let’s be clear, you had the media, the police union and politicians in the capital of the state, even President Trump spoke against her. The lynch mob came after Kim and she resigned for the best interest of the community to stop that bill from passing.”
Rev. Richard Jackson, of Manasseh Ministry, also weighed in. “Europeans, White men are afraid and in a dual position where they hate the woman and yet they desire the Black woman. So, it’s difficult for them to embrace them because they are already intimidated by them. Black women … they are bridging the gap of keeping families together and they don’t like that,” he said.
“In regards to Ms. Kim Gardner, they actually thought they had a slave and that the slave would obey the rules and follow the traditions. And they (the police union, and local politicians who opposed Ms. Garner during her first run for office) were told upfront by Ms. Gardner, that she was not a slave and don’t operate that way.
So, they thought that they could break her, and they couldn’t break her.” She cared more about the people than about her personal success, life and enjoyment, added Rev. Jackson. Black women who are in power are a threat to the system and the system seeks to eliminate them, he charged.
Mr. Joshua Beeks, a local community activist, was among the supporters at the May 16 hearing.
“I was surprised that Kim resigned because I know Kim to be a fighter and would not give up on the struggle. I also think she resigned because she could not get support and cooperation from the system that was fighting against her and no attorney would come and work for her, so she was fighting a losing battle,” he said.
“If she was not getting support there’s no need to keep sacrificing herself and it doesn’t look like you are making any progress. And the powers that be, whatever that is, were pushing against her and she didn’t have enough support to push back. So, she got out of the way and let the process do what it’s going to do.”
Attorney Christmas also posted a YouTube video explaining his sentiments concerning Atty. Kim Gardner’s resignation. He stated he was troubled and disappointed she did not get the support she needed.
“I thought Kim had the right intentions. She’s a good and honorable person, and I did not want her to leave the circuit attorney’s office. So heavy is the head that wears the crown,” he said. “But, there was an intentional attack on her from the very beginning, when she went after former Governor Eric Greitens, and there is always an attack on Black women in power,” Atty. Christmas continued.
“The integrity of Kim Gardner has proven to be amongst the best if not the best we’ve ever seen from an elected official. She kept her word to the people,” said Amir Brandy, a community activist in Ferguson, Missouri, and community activist.
“Kim’s resignation is the result of what happens in racist America that doesn’t want change,” said Coffee Wright, CEO and director of Homeless Abused Suicidal and Seniors Resources and a member of the Community Justice Coalition. “They don’t want equality, and they know that Black women have always been able to (get the) best out of a bad situation. We are resilient and we get the job done. Kim, stayed until the end. They didn’t end her term, she decided it was time to leave and she did with her head up. We love and respect her for what she did for us.”
Longtime activist Zaki Baruti, President General of the Universal African People’s Organization, was surprised by the resignation but said he understood Atty. Gardner’s decision after dealing with none stop political attacks. “So, we salute her efforts for standing against an avalanche of ridicule for bringing change in the office of the circuit attorneys in St. Louis. She fought a good fight and she will always be our champion,” he said.
—J.A. Salaam, Contributing Writer