Author

Rebecca Rivas

Rebecca Rivas

Rebecca Rivas covers civil rights, criminal justice and immigration. She has been reporting in Missouri since 2001, most recently as senior reporter and video producer at the St. Louis American, the nation's leading African-American newspaper.

Couple creates food hub in southwest Missouri to help families during ‘difficult times’

By: - December 30, 2021

Anita and Gary Burney moved to Back Acres Homestead — or as they jokingly call it, “Back Ache-rs’ Homestead” — in southwestern Missouri three years ago to find a quieter life.  Just a few miles from both the Arkansas and Oklahoma borders, the Burneys’ homestead features a lovely stone house, chickens roaming, a garden, some […]

After 33 years advocating for victims of domestic violence, Colleen Coble is retiring

By: - December 29, 2021

It was spring of 1989, and Colleen Coble had been working as a lobbyist in Jefferson City for just a few months.  She stood in the gallery of the Missouri House of Representatives, waiting for a bill regarding protections for domestic violence victims to come up for a vote.  It had to pass out of […]

Kansas City residents will soon have the right to an attorney in eviction proceedings

By: - December 28, 2021

 A stack of boxes sitting in attorney Gina Chiala’s garage reminds her of how devastating evictions can be on families.  A woman had called her in 2014, a couple years before Chiala co-founded the Heartland Center For Jobs and Freedom nonprofit law group to provide legal support to the movement of fast-food workers fighting for […]

Missouri’s largest counties seek to appeal ruling overturning local health orders

By: and - December 13, 2021

Jackson and St. Louis counties requested Monday that they be permitted to intervene and appeal a recent court ruling that they argue has “upended the longstanding public health framework” in Missouri. In a filing submitted Monday afternoon and obtained by The Independent, the two counties asked Cole County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Green to stay […]

St. Louis County ends mask rule as school districts resist pressure from Schmitt

By: and - December 9, 2021

St. Louis County abandoned its effort to maintain a mask mandate Thursday as Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s crusade to crush out all such orders statewide continued. Some school districts said they would not comply with “cease and desist” letters from Schmitt after his office began soliciting complaints about mask rules, citing their legal authority. But […]

Missouri Attorney General tells schools, health departments to end COVID orders

By: and - December 7, 2021

Attorney General Eric Schmitt instructed school districts and local public health departments to immediately stop enforcing health orders a judge ruled unconstitutional last month, and warned Tuesday they may face legal action if they fail to do so. In separate letters sent Tuesday to school districts and health departments across the state, Schmitt pointed to […]

Black Dems say nonpartisan elections in St. Louis County would dilute Black political power

By: - December 7, 2021

The cheers and ringing bells were deafening at Wesley Bell’s watch party for the August 2018 Democratic primary election in St. Louis County. Shocking the country, Bell had handed a stunning defeat to then-incumbent St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch ― the longtime prosecutor who had been sharply criticized by the Black community for his […]

St. Louis asks judge to rule ‘police bill of rights’ law unconstitutional

By: - December 3, 2021

The City of St. Louis filed a lawsuit Friday asking a judge to strike down a wide-ranging bill that passed in May bolstering protections for police under investigation for misconduct. The city’s lawsuit targets a portion of a bill called the “Law Enforcement Bill of Rights,” a list of more than 15 new requirements that […]

Eric Schmitt and Donald Kauerauf

Missouri health director wanted to appeal judge’s COVID ruling. AG Schmitt refused

By: and - December 2, 2021

Attorney General Eric Schmitt will not appeal a consequential court ruling that strips powers from local health departments, despite a request from Missouri’s state health director to do so. In an email to The Independent, Schmitt’s spokesman said the attorney general’s office notified the Department of Health and Senior Services of its decision. “We have […]

Missouri bill seeks to forgive mistakenly overpaid unemployment benefits

By: - December 1, 2021

The state saw a historic number of Missourians apply for unemployment benefits in 2020. About 639,000 Missourians filed in the first three months of the COVID pandemic, as businesses shut down to stave off the virus’ spread. “They were encouraged to apply,” said Jim Guest, director of the volunteer lawyers program at Legal Services of […]

Conservationists work to keep Missouri’s wild turkey numbers up

By: - November 25, 2021

A thick blanket of fallen leaves completely covered the hikers’ feet on Turkey Ridge Trail in St. Louis County.  A leafless forest is great for spotting Missouri’s largest bird — the wild turkey — this time of year, said Ed Leutwiler, a longtime volunteer with Missouri Department of Conservation. But unfortunately, the loud crunching sounds […]

Missourians come together to welcome Afghan refugees

By: - November 24, 2021

Marshall Klimasewiski and his nine-year-old daughter, Amna, were among hundreds of runners and walkers who lined up for the Race for Refugees in St. Louis on Saturday morning. The International Institute, the city’s refugee resettlement agency, has aided thousands of people fleeing their countries during its 100 years of service, Marshall said. And the agency […]