Tuesday, August 14, 2012
St. Louis police respond after crowd of Negroes swarm church for rumored FREE OBAMA food vouchers
ST. LOUIS • Police were called to a church in St. Louis this morning for crowd control after an unexpectedly large crowd gathered on rumors of applying for $500 food vouchers.
St. Louis police spokesman Dave Marzullo initially said police had responded to crowds at a blood drive but later corrected that statement.
Howard Walker, an administrator at St. Louis Powerhouse Church, and also a representative for Advanced Marketing Promotions, LLC, said the hundreds of people gathered for the event at the church, were tempted by the chance at the vouchers. Traffic was snarled in the area of the church, in the 4000 block of West Florissant Avenue for most of the morning, but appeared to be under control by about 11 a.m.
"I've been working on the northside for five years, and I've never seen anything like this," said Officer Michael Owens, who was pushing back the crowd along with other officers.
Two ambulances arrived to treat a diabetic woman as well as an older woman who fell in the street. Police had to put crime scene tape across the front door of the church to discourage people from trying to get in.
Some members of the crowd became irate after they were sold fake applications for the vouchers.
Several attendees said they had been waiting in line for their chance at the voucher since last night and as early as 4 a.m. Once the church doors opened, the crowd rushed in.
Attendees were given applications for UPside Visa cards and were told they would recieve a debit card in the mail that they must keep activated for $1 a month. The $500 food vouchers would arrive along with the cards, Walker said.
According the UPside Visa card website, they are prepaid debit cards targeting teenagers and customers who don't use banks. A Visa spokesman said the event was not sanctioned by Visa, but likely connected to a financial institution that issues credit to consumers.
The event started Monday in an open lot where Walker estimated he gave out about 500 applications.
Today, Walker said he and his helpers collected some 5,000 applications and that people started camping out early this morning as word spread they could receive a $500 food voucher in exchange for applying for a card.
"I was not expecting this," said Walker, a self-proclaimed reformed drug addict who has been with the church for several years.
Walker acknowledged he didn't know how or why AMP would give away thousands of $500 vouchers for free.
"I don't know all the answers," he said. "It sounds real good. Number one, I'm a minister. When you mention about giving food to people, hey, I can do it for free. I want to help people. There are people out here struggling."
Walker referred questions to a man affiliated with AMP named Gordon Cooper, who did not return a reporter's calls Tuesday.
According to its website, AMP appears based in Hazel Green, Ala.
Church volunteer Mary Moore was surprised at the response.
"They rushed the building so hard, that (organizers) had to shut it down," she said. "Word of mouth got around and it got out of proportion."
Sonya Gray, 49, of Overland arrived at 8 a.m. and decided against submitting an application after seeing the crowd.
"It's out of control," she said. "Nothing got organized. This is crazy."
Carla Webb, 50, of south St. Louis arrived at 7 a.m. and submitted an application. She was frustrated by the way organizers handled the event.
"They've got it totally disorganized," she said.
Walker said AMP, LLC had planned another event at Euclid near Ashland or Newstead. But Walker said they'll have to revise plans now that the police are involved.