- Ex-Black Lives Matter member
- Battle rapper with violent lyrical content
- Multiple arrests
Bruce Franks Jr. is a member of the Missouri House of Representatives, serving District 78 in St. Louis, the city where he was born in the mid-1980s. When he first ran for that legislative seat in 2016, Franks lost the Democratic primary to incumbent Penny Hubbard. But he then contested the result, arguing that numerous absentee ballots had been submitted improperly — i.e., they had not been placed inside sealed envelopes, as required by law. Because of this technicality, Circuit Judge Rex Burlison threw out the results of the primary, and Franks subsequently won the Democratic nomination in a re-do election. He then went on to defeat Republican nominee Erik Shelquist in the general election, capturing 86 percent of the vote.
Before trying his hand at politics, Franks owned a small business called Kwik Tax Services. He was also active as a performer of “battle rap” — a form of rap music whose content is replete with boasting and insults. In this video of one of his performances from 2009, Franks, whose stage name was “Ooops,” can be seen repeatedly using the word “ni**as” and reciting such lyrics as the following:
- “In other words, don’t get added to my hit-list / Try to spit with a slit throat, get left neckless.”
- “P-fam rappers so don’t speak about my counterparts / They won’t recognize you till they find you [dismembered] and count your parts.”
- “Do you wanna wonder why I’m angry as hell / I’ll put you in a place where you can’t be found / Where you can’t be traced… Fu** with the family, you gonna die.”
Viewing the U.S. as a nation that routinely misperceives African Americans as criminals, Franks was closely affiliated with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement beginning in 2013. During a BLM protest sparked by an August 2014 altercation in which a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri had shot and killed an 18-year-old black criminal suspect named Michael Brown, Franks was photographed holding a sign that read: “I am a college educated black man!!! Business owner, father, husband!!! I apologize I look like a thug!!!” On his personal Facebook page in March 2015, Franks posted a picture of a black man wearing a hoodie and standing nose-to-nose with a police officer in riot gear. The photo was captioned, “FU** YOUR ORDERS.” A September 2015 Riverfront Times article quoted Franks as saying, “I’ll always be a protester.”
Franks once served as the regional organizer for Generation Progress, the youth arm of the Center for American Progress. In 2015 he founded a youth-violence-prevention organization called 28 to Life. That same year, the police chief of St. Louis appointed him as Police-Community Liaison. In 2015 as well, Franks received a “Champions of Change” award from President Barack Obama.
In October 2017, Franks was among 143 people arrested during a BLM protest where he and his fellow participants linked arms and blocked traffic on an interstate highway in St. Louis. The following month, Franks was again arrested during a “Black Friday Shopping” protest where the participants — in an effort to draw attention to the alleged mistreatment of blacks in St. Louis — walked through a shopping mall shouting, “Shut it down.”
While his colleagues in the Missouri House of Representatives placed their right hands over their hearts and recited the American pledge of allegiance on the morning of January 3, 2018 — the first day of the new year’s legislative session — Franks stood silently while raising a clenched fist. He was subsequently questioned about his actions by Fox News’s Tucker Carlson. During the televised interview, Franks wore a hoodie bearing the slogan, “I’m rooting for everybody black,” and he told the host that “my raising my fist was basically power to the people, to all people.” Explaining his refusal to recite the pledge of allegiance, Franks said he could not, in good conscience, utter the words, “for [sic] liberty and justice for all.” “When I think liberty and justice for all,” he expanded, “we obviously haven’t seen that across the United States over time, over my 33 years of living. We see that … when it comes to justice, that [it] looks a little different depending on sometimes where you’re from, depending on sometimes what your socioeconomic status is, and what you look like.”
Soon after his interview with Carlson, Franks appeared at an event titled “Unapologetic Politics,” where he delivered a speech in which he proudly described himself as “unapologetically black.” Noting, at one point, that he had not recited the pledge of allegiance since he was seven years old, he stated that his white colleagues in the Missouri legislature generally viewed “liberty and justice” as commodities that are “not for all truly,” but rather, “for all that look like them.”
During a Missouri House session on April 24, 2018, Franks argued against a bill that sought to prevent the state from awarding public contracts to any companies that were actively participating in economic boycotts against Israel. Noting that “there are a lot of people in Missouri that feel as if the Palestinians are being persecuted and being treated terribly by Israel,” Franks said that he recently had seen “pictures of families, of children, pictures of lives lost, Palestinian lives lost at a peaceful protest.”
Over the years, Franks has posted numerous anti-police messages on his Twitter account. In October 2011, for instance, he wrote: “fu** da po po.” In August 2014, he said, “I HAVE NO RESPECT …. FOR ANY COP.”
For additional information on Bruce Franks Jr., click here.
Further Reading: “Franks Wins Big in Re-do Election” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 9-17-2016); “Bruce Franks Jr.” (House.mo.gov); “To Save Black Lives, Protester Bruce Franks Will Do the Unthinkable: Work with Cops” (Riverfront Times, 9-2-2015); “Ex-Black Lives Matter Member-Turned-Lawmaker Stirs Trouble” (Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox News Channel, 1-22-2018); “Bruce Franks Jr. Beats Penny Hubbard in Special Election Landslide” (Riverfront Times, 9-16-2016); “Unapologetic; Representative Bruce Franks, Jr.” (Ethical Society of St. Louis, 1-21-2018); “Protesters Arrested After Blocking Highway 40 Include Pastor, State Rep” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10-4-2017); “Missouri Lawmaker Bruce Franks, Jr. Raises Fist During Pledge of Allegiance” (Fox2now.com, 1-3-2018).