Ed Reggi: So What's a Gay-Rights Activist Doing In the Debate Over Teens in the Loop?

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Ed Reggi: Spearheads effort to block U. City's sidewalk bill.
University City wants to ticket teenagers blocking the sidewalks in the city's Delmar Loop business district. But the proposed new law faces a significant obstacle of its own in Ed Reggi.

Best known as the founder of the gay-rights organization Show Me No Hate, Reggi believes the U. City ordinance unfairly targets black youth and hopes to block passage of the bill at next Monday's city council meeting. And Reggi is asking for your help.

Last week he launched an online petition asking those who agree with him to voice their disapproval of Bill 9112, which was drafted in April following several disturbances and at least one arrest in the Loop and would fine offenders as much as $1,000 per incident.

This morning Daily RFT caught up with Reggi to talk about his campaign -- and how it is that a white guy from St. Louis has found himself speaking up for black kids in U. City.

Daily RFT: What do you hope to accomplish with the petition?

Ed Reggi: I'm hoping that we can get 500 people to sign it by next Monday (May 23). I could then use it as something of a visual at the next council meeting. I can hand them a ream of paper with the names and comments of people in the community who feel this law comes out of left field. Hopefully all of our arguments can get University City to table the ordinance. 

How did you get involved in the debate over this legislation?

The City of St. Louis has had several ordinances over the years that have gone up the court system and found to be unconstitutional, and it's the taxpayers who have to pay for these cases. As a frequent visitor to the Loop, I was afraid that the proposed ordinance could be used for all kinds of people -- people who want to protest, people holding a vigil. But truly I feel that this bill will be used to target black youth. They're the ones perceived as the problem. The thing is, I've researched this. I've read the city's ordinances and it already has several laws on the books dealing with disturbing the peace and not restricting flow on sidewalks and streets. Those laws all address the issue and need to be enforced.

How does your work on this issue correlate with Show Me No Hate, which advocates primarily for marriage equality for homosexuals?

I'm getting asked that question a lot. But to me, it's all the same thing. I don't want to be fighting for equality in a vacuum. And I don't think if I divert my attention for a second to other issues that I'm letting down marriage equality. The bottom line is that if black youth can be targeted in the Loop today, what happens when two men are holding hands in the Loop and stop for a moment to look in a store window? An officer could ticket them just because he doesn't like gays. The law is ambiguous enough that it allows the police officer to make the call. Another thing is that we in the LGBT community want all kinds of people to join our cause. I think we need to reciprocate.

Do you think, though, that there exists a problem in the Loop with people blocking sidewalks?

I get that there are issues and problems in the Loop. My concern is that there's a better way to address this. This week I'm organizing a group of artists to meet at the Regional Arts Council in the Loop to hopefully see if we might be able to come up with some suggestions. The goal is to come up with a solution to the issue, which -- at its core -- is the overcrowding of the Loop sidewalks. 


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