NAACP officials said their recently-issued travel advisory to Missouri is the first warning instated by the group for any state, according to the Kansas City Star.
The travel alert, which was first circulated at the local level in June, warns travels of discrimination and racist attacks, particularly in light of recent high-profile police shootings.
Missouri recently adopted legislation making it more difficult to win discrimination lawsuits. NAACP leaders cited longtime racial disparities in traffic enforcement as well as other incidents as examples of harm that strictly affect minority residents and visitors.
Perhaps the most publicized incident in Missouri in recent memory occurred in August 2014 when a white police officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Brown's death sparked a wave of protests, lasting for weeks. And, in 2015, the University of Missouri came under fire after protesters say the campus administration failed to address racial slurs aimed at black students. More recently, in 2017, 28-year-old Tory Sanders, a black man from Tennessee, was killed in a southeast Missouri jail after taking a wrong turn while traveling. He was never accused of a crime.
“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."
The new law on discrimination lawsuits, which makes it more challenging to sue for housing and employment discrimination, takes effect August 28. The travel advisory, however, won't be sent to the national board for ratification until October. As a result, Rod Chapel, president of the Missouri NAACP, urged residents to file complaints before then.
“The advisory is for people to be aware, and warn their families and friends and co-workers of what could happen in Missouri,” Chapel said. “People need to be ready, whether it’s bringing bail money with them, or letting relatives know they are traveling through the state.”