On 2 August 2017, the national board of the civil rights organization the NAACP voted to adopt a travel advisory originally put out by their Missouri chapter warning travelers to exercise caution when traveling to Missouri. It is the first such warning the organization has issued for a state in its 108-year history.
The travel advisory, which the Missouri NAACP issued in June 2017, came in response to both heightened complaints of hate crimes and discrimination coming out of the state, and new legislation that would make it more difficult to sue a business for discrimination. The controversial bill, known as SB 43, is set to come into effect on 28 August.
The NAACP’s statement read in part:
The NAACP Travel Advisory for the state of Missouri, effective through August 28th, 2017, calls for African American travelers, visitors and Missourians to pay special attention and exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the state given the series of questionable, race-based incidents occurring statewide recently, and noted therein.
SB 43, advanced by Senator Gary Romine, hearkens back to the Jim Crow-era. The Bill legalizes individual discrimination and harassment within the State of Missouri, and “would prevent individuals from protecting themselves from discrimination, harassment and retaliation in Missouri,” the advisory reads. The NAACP is hopeful that the Bill will be vetoed, at which time the Missouri State Conference will update the advisory.
The NAACP will consider whether to formally ratify the advisory in October 2017.
The travel advisory cited several examples and statistics that it says suggest “looming danger” for residents of and visitors to the state:
Tory Sanford [sic] who recently died in a jail cell but was never arrested after running out of gas when he traveled into the state accidently;
Racist attacks on University of Missouri students while on the states’ campuses – as the University of Missouri System spoke in favor of Romine’s Jim Crow Bill;
Missouri’s legislature Representative Rick Bratton [sic] argued that homosexuals are not human beings according to his faith;
Black high school students in St. Louis have been attacked with hot glue while denigrated racially;
Two internationally born men gunned down outside in Kansas City after their killer thought them to be Muslim;
According to the Missouri Attorney General African Americans in Missouri are subjected to excessive traffic – 75% more likely to be stopped and searched based on skin color than Caucasians, Public threats of shooting ‘Blacks’ that terrorized University of Missouri students and members of the public.
(Two of the names in the advisory were apparently incorrect and should be Tory Sanders and Rick Brattin). Rod Chapel, the president of the Missouri NAACP, also referred to the May 2017 death of motorist Tory Sanders in an interview:
How do you come to Missouri, run out of gas and find yourself dead in a jail cell when you haven’t broken any laws? […] You have violations of civil rights that are happening to people. They’re being pulled over because of their skin color, they’re being beaten up or killed. We are hearing complaints at a rate we haven’t heard before.
Chapel said the advisory was issued to make people aware, and “warn their families and friends and co-workers of what could happen in Missouri … whether it’s bringing bail money with them, or letting relatives know they are traveling through the state.”