NEW YORK – For the past year, a French government website has warned French travelers to avoid visiting the area north of downtown St. Louis were the police shooting of a black teen Saturday sparked violent, racial tensions that now are being addressed by the White House.
The French government website “France Diplomatie” carries a security warning for St. Louis that reads in French: “St. Louis: Eviter le quartier nord entre l’aéroport et le centre-ville, mais la navette reliant l’aéroport est sûre.”
It translates to: “St. Louis: Avoid the northern area between the airport and the city center, but the airport shuttle is safe.”
Noticing the French government travel warning last November, KMOX-TV in St. Louis posted an article that began: “It was 250 years ago that Frenchmen Pierre Laclede and Auguste Chouteau founded the fur trading post that would become St. Louis. Now the French government has some warnings for travelers coming here.”
KMOX reported at the time that the mayor of St. Louis was not amused.
“The French government can do what it wants, but in the end, you know, we’re still going to have people come in and enjoy our city,” Mayor Francis Slay explained to the television station.
KMOX also reported North St. Louis Alderman Antonio French objected that the travel warnings were unfair.
“If you actually think about it, it’s actually not bad of a list to be on,” Slay said. “Almost every major city in America is on the list, including St. Louis, of course. If a Frenchman were to decide to avoid or be discouraged from visiting cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans, their visit to the United States would be a lot less fun, a lot less enjoyable.”
The French government website warns French tourists that when arriving in an American city, “it is advisable to learn about the neighborhoods to avoid.”
Obama, calling for “peace and calm on the streets” of Ferguson, said Thursday there is “never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting.”
But he also chastised police.
“There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights,” he said, taking time from his vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
The executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police was unhappy with the president’s remarks, The Hill reported.
“I would contend that discussing police tactics from Martha’s Vineyard is not helpful to ultimately calming the situation,” Director Jim Pasco said in an interview with Capitol Hill daily.
“I think what he has to do as president and as a constitutional lawyer is remember that there is a process in the United States, and the process is being followed, for good or for ill, by the police and by the county and by the city and by the prosecutors’ office,” Pasco said.