Brett Blume (@brettblumekmox)

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – “So far I haven’t shed a tear – doesn’t mean I won’t,” confided Joyce Cooks. “But God is not pleased. I done told these people this is Holy Ground, and they’re taking Holy Ground.”

Cooks was among a group of residents who gathered at 23rd and Mullanphy in north city Friday afternoon, about the same time that Mayor Francis Slay was holding his second press conference to tout the fact that the old Pruitt-Igoe site was the “agency-preferred” alternative for replacing the current spy agency headquarters near Anheuser-Busch.

Like Cooks, most of those enjoying a low-key picnic to commiserate with one another are facing the prospect of losing their homes when the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency headquarters is built.

“They don’t care how we feel,” Cooks said. “They don’t care at all. The mayor is chomping at the bit, he is so happy. And that (Congressman Lacy) Clay and (5th Ward Alderwoman Tamika) Hubbard and that Black Clergy Coalition who ought to be ashamed of themselves — men of God? Ha! Men who run behind money.”

That bitter tone spread throughout the gathering.

“People in the community are devastated,” said Sheila Rendon, who’s also facing the loss of her home. “Heartbroken is a word that I’ve heard a lot. The way this process fleshed itself out people feel very vulnerable.”

Rendon issued a press release reading, in part, “Today we implore the city to end this behavior of plowing down and dismantling our African-American neighborhoods. Regrettably, we already hear whispers from our neighbors across Jefferson Avenue who are afraid that they will be next. We ask you to stop this disastrous behavior and listen to the surrounding communities before you continue with what could be but another page in St. Louis’ history of racial and economic segregation.”

Next to the site of the neighborhood get-together at 23rd and Mullanphy, someone had put up a large sign quoting the Bible, Exodus 20:17 – “You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor’s House.”

(TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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