Protest against acquittal of officer turns violent
ST. LOUIS — Violence broke out Saturday night in a St. Louis suburb after hundreds of police moved in to…
ST. LOUIS — Violence broke out Saturday night in a St. Louis suburb after hundreds of police moved in to confront a small group of people who refused to disperse after a march protesting the acquittal of a white former St. Louis officer in the shooting of a black man.
On Saturday evening, hundreds of protesters marched through the Delmar Loop of the St. Louis suburb of University City — known for concert venues, restaurants, shops and bars. After three hours of marching, organizers asked protesters to disband Saturday evening and reconvene today.
But a small group of people stayed, and shortly before 11 p.m. Saturday, the police formed lines and pushed the demonstrators down the street, eventually announcing that the protest had become unlawful and ordering demonstrators to leave.
Protesters fled down the street, throwing items such as water bottles, trash cans and trash can lids at police and breaking businesses’ windows.
People scrambled for safety in alleys and parking garages. Restaurant patrons huddled in corners.
It was unclear whether anyone was injured. Several people were seen in handcuffs.
Earlier in the day, noisy demonstrators marched through two malls in an upscale area of suburban St. Louis.
A few hundred people walked through West County Center in Des Peres, an upscale community west of St. Louis, loudly chanting slogans such as “black lives matter” and “it is our duty to fight for our freedom” to decry the judge’s verdict Friday clearing ex-St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith.
A short time later, a group demonstrated at Chesterfield Mall and a regional food festival.
Saturday’s protests followed raucous daytime marches in downtown St. Louis and through the city’s posh Central West End area during the night. Protesters were making it clear, they said, that the entire region, not just predominantly black areas of St. Louis, should feel uncomfortable with the verdict and its impact.
“I don’t think racism is going to change in America until people get uncomfortable,” said Kayla Reed of the St. Louis Action Council, a protest organizer.
Smith’s death is just one of several high-profile U.S. cases in recent years in which a white officer killed a black suspect, including the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson that sparked months of angry and sometimes violent protests.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Saturday it will not open a new civil rights investigation into the case. The head of the NAACP St. Louis had asked for a federal investigation. Justice Department spokesman Lauren Ehrsam said the department concluded in September 2016 that evidence did not support prosecution under criminal civil rights statutes, but did not announce it publicly until now to avoid impacting the state criminal case.
Before the verdict, Gov. Eric Greitens put the National Guard on standby, and some troops were deployed Friday night to guard fire stations and other “critical infrastructure” that Greitens didn’t specify.
Police erected barricades around their own headquarters and the courthouse and dozens of officers in flak jackets and helmets who wielded batons and shields corralled demonstrators throughout the day and evening.
Tensions flared several times, including when protesters blocked a bus full of riot officers, damaged a police cruiser with rocks and later broke a window and spattered red paint on the home of Mayor Lyda Krewson.
After a tense standoff at the mayor’s home, police used tear gas to clear the area.
Nearly three-dozen people were arrested Friday, police said, mostly for failure to disperse, resisting and interfering.
Police said 11 officers were injured Friday, including a broken jaw and dislocated shoulder. Five officers were taken to hospitals. Police also said that 10 businesses were damaged, mostly broken windows.
The civil disobedience followed the acquittal of Stockley for fatally shooting Smith, 24, after the suspected drug dealer crashed his car after a chase.
Stockley testified that he saw Smith holding a silver revolver as he sped away and felt he was in imminent danger as he was approaching the vehicle later.
Prosecutors said Stockley planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shooting — Stockley’s DNA was on the weapon but Smith’s wasn’t. Dashboard camera video from Stockley’s cruiser captured him saying he was “going to kill this [expletive], don’t you know it.” Less than a minute later, he shot Smith five times.
Stockley’s lawyer dismissed the comment as “human emotions” uttered during a dangerous pursuit and the judge said it could be ambiguous.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson said prosecutors didn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stockley murdered Smith or that the officer didn’t act in self-defense.
In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the verdict, Stockley, 36, said he understands how video of the shooting looks bad, but that he did nothing wrong.
“I can feel for and I understand what the family is going through, and I know everyone wants someone to blame, but I’m just not the guy,” said Stockley, who left St. Louis’ police force in 2013 and moved to Houston.
A Section on 09/17/2017
Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Protest against acquittal of officer turns violent