Protesters claim more than $10 million impact; economist says overall that's “minuscule”

Oct 17, 2017
Originally published on October 19, 2017 11:56 am

“No justice, no profits.”

That’s one of several chants protesters have used in nearly daily events since Sept. 15, the day a St. Louis Circuit judge acquitted former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. Activists have made it clear that economic disruption is a big part of their strategy.

And they’ve put a number on it. Rep. Bruce Franks, D-St. Louis, who has taken part in many of the demonstrations, told a crowd late last month the economic impact was $10 million to $11 million.

“When folks ask are the protests effective, $11 million or $10 million dollars sounds effective to me,” Franks said.

Much of that estimate is likely from police overtime costs. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said the cost for overtime between Sept. 15 and 25 is $2.9 million. Officials of the the St. Louis County Police Department said their overtime cost is $1.4 million through Oct. 7.

How protesters determined the remaining amount isn’t known. Estimates were not yet available on the costs of wages lost due to canceled events or closed businesses.

One economist said it’s likely too early to come to an accurate figure, as private businesses and insurance companies have not shared the cost of damage in the first weekend after the verdict — and may not know at this point. Yet Glenn MacDonald, professor of economics and strategy at Washington University’s Olin Business School, said even if the figure grew as high as $50 million, it wouldn’t have much of an effect.

“You’re talking about an economy in the state of Missouri that’s on the order of $300 billion, not million, in a year,” he said, “so this is a very, very tiny amount of economic resources compared to the resource of the state. The economic impact is minuscule.”

MacDonald said there could be a long-term economic effect, should companies decide not to move their business to St. Louis or if conventions go elsewhere. But he said because protests are not a new phenomenon in St. Louis, the effect isn’t likely to be big.

“Anyone who is going to have those kind of thoughts [about St. Louis] in a negative manner has had them before, and probably for quite a long time,” MacDonald said.

That doesn’t faze protest organizer Tory Russell.

“Let’s see in a year if it’s a $150 million,” he said.

In the last month, protests have circulated through downtown, the Delmar Loop, to the Galleria mall in Brentwood, Clayton, Hazelwood and St. Charles. Russell said with much of the state’s gross domestic product produced in the St. Louis region, he expects the impact will be felt as the protests continue.

“If they believe corn and pigs is the economy of Missouri, here in St. Louis we’ll show them that that’s not true,” he said.

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