City of Brass

Umar Lee is running for Mayor of Saint Louis. Visit his Facebook page at for more information

Umar Lee is running for Mayor of Saint Louis. Visit his Facebook page at for more information

Umar Lee is many things – a native son of Saint Louis, a veteran of the Ferguson street protests, a white man who embraces populist politics, and a convert to Islam with a penchant for political activism. His memoir on The Rise and Fall of the Salafi Dawah in America is a must-read. His eponymous blog and associated YouTube channel is a provocative, unedited stream of consciousness. The essential truth of Umar Lee is that he is unafraid of speaking his mind – and has paid the price for doing so.

He used to be a cab driver – and ferocious critic of Uber as a vehicle (pun intended) of gentrification and class warfare. He was fired last month, however, for speaking out against a case of police discrimination against a black family that moved to a white suburb.

And he’s running for Mayor of Saint Louis. As a Republican.

His mayoral platform is on his blog – as yet he has no official campaign website apart from a facebook page – and consists of a 15-point plan that is ideological and ambitious to say the least, but also politically diverse. He’s a strong supporter of 2nd Amendment rights and also supports a 40% pay increase for teachers. He proposes to feed the poor en masse and welcominhg Syrian refugees to Saint Louis as an infusion of fresh blood to the ailing economy; fuding these initiatives mostly derives from poroposed tax increases on the wealthy and large corporations. My favorite part of his platform is his defiance to the St. Louis Rams, which is exactly the attitude that every city in America should have when faced with the stadium extortion racket from the NFL and other major sports leagues.

The first obvious question I have is, Why a Republican? He already answered that briefly on his announcement post:

I’ve been asked why I’m running as a Republican. In all honesty party label is not that important to me. There are good people on both sides of the aisle and enemies of progress on both sides of the aisle. In the past I’ve voted for both parties. In the city of St. Louis the Democratic Party is a well-oiled and heavily-funded machine often hostile to change. A machine that has been at the helm during six decades of decline in our city. The Republican Party of St. Louis City is detached from power and open to new ideas and energy. I run as a Republican in the spirit of GOP lawmakers who fought segregationist Dixiecrats to pass civil-rights legislation and in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln. Not in the spirit of a Jesse Helms or Donald Trump.

I think the GOP in Missouri may have other ideas, once they read his platform.

The other question is, is he serious? How far can raw ideology and idealism carry you – and in a marlet like Saint Louis, is there enough disaffection from the working class to propel him to victory? To put it bluntly, Umar is not a kindly grandfather like Bernie Sanders. But his passion is impossible to deny.

It’s definitely worth learning more. He deserves to be heard. To that end – Umar has graciously agreed to do a Q&A with me here on City of Brass. Stay tuned.


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