South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Socially distanced Black Lives Matter drive organized by Oakville High student


A socially distanced Black Lives Matter drive will take place Wednesday in Oakville, organized by an Oakville High School student.

The drive, organized by Thomas Schartner, a 2020 OHS graduate and son of Mehlville Board of Education President Kevin Schartner, will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 17, beginning at Oakville Middle School, 5950 Telegraph Road, and ending at Bernard Middle School, 1054 Forder Road.

Black Lives Matter protests and marches have been sweeping the country, including in St. Louis, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. In final moments captured on video, Floyd, a black man, died after a white police officer held him on the ground, the officer’s knee on his throat, as three other officers stood nearby.

Those wanting to participate in the drive can meet at Oakville Middle School/Wohlwend Elementary school at 6 p.m. The drive will begin at 6:30 p.m. starting on Telegraph Road, to Reavis Barracks, to Lemay Ferry, and onto Forder, concluding at Bernard Middle School.

Participants are free to decorate their cars or make signs but everyone must remain in their vehicle at all times during the drive. Masks are not required but are strongly encouraged.

“It’s about making a difference, making it known that people want to be a part of a change in this county… that there’s no more of this system that hurts people based on the color of their skin,” Thomas Schartner told The Call. “It’s all meant to be positive to uplift a community that needs our help… At the end of the day, it’s about supporting humans, not tearing down law enforcement.”

Thomas Schartner said he was inspired to host the Black Lives Matter drive after considering what else he could do to support the movement beyond signing petitions and donating money — and without having to physically attend a protest due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic since a member of his family is immunocompromised. The idea of a “peaceful and safe” drive seemed like a good way to show support while also keeping everyone safe from COVID-19, just as other Oakville residents have used the socially distanced drive-by parade concept to celebrate birthdays and graduations.

“The idea sort of came to me with the birthday parades and graduation parades — why not put the two together and make it a safe way for people to get out into the community and show their support?” Schartner said.

Mehlville School District Senior Spotlight: Thomas Schartner

The teenager previously made the news five years ago when he spoke out in favor of Mehlville’s Proposition R bond issue as an Oakville Middle School student, before his father was elected to the school board.

So far feedback from the community about the drive has been largely positive, “especially considering that South County is predominately white,” Schartner said. “The only thing that I’ve really seen in the negative feedback that we’ve gotten is that people see this as an anti-police event but it’s not, it’s a pro-black life and pro-black community event… The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”

Thomas Schartner has reached out to representatives of the St. Louis County Police Department’s South County Precinct, so officers there are aware of the drive.

In the Oakville Residents Unite Facebook group and other Oakville groups, the event has received mostly supportive comments. But a few residents objected, with one wondering whether the event was associated in any way with the Mehlville School District. Kevin Schartner originally posted the event since his son was not yet a member of the various Oakville groups.

“This is not a school district event, it is a community event to show support for black people. It is not protesting anyone or any group. My support is that of a proud father and free thinking citizen… The issues are complex and I am proud to see our younger generation stepping up to take them on,” said Kevin Schartner in response to one of the comments on the Facebook post, adding that just because the drive was meeting in a Mehlville school parking lot, it did not mean the drive was associated with the district.

“School parking lots are public access. No permissions are needed to meet there, as long as people don’t stay there, and the parking lot size is the important feature,” the board president said.

Other former members of the school board, such as Samantha Stormer and Venki Palamand, who is running in August for the 6th District County Council, also affirmed that they believed there was no conflict of interest for Kevin Schartner to support his son’s event.

Thomas Schartner was one of the students spotlighted by Oakville High School from the Class of 2020.


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