Protests remained mostly peaceful in the late afternoon Friday at the St. Louis city courthouse, with chanting and signs held up in the cordoned-off street, but little violence or rancor.
Protests had gone on all day since a St. Louis judge declared former police officer Jason Stockley not guilty of murder in the death of Anthony Smith.
In some places, there were altercations between police, and a few arrests were reported. Police stated that after objects were thrown at police officers, they donned tactical gear including shields and helmets.
A percussion group led chants of “no justice, no peace,” “I know that we will win” and “hey ho hey ho, killer cops have got to go.” A protester wearing a “V for Vendetta” Occupy mask waved a black and white version of the American flag printed with the names of black people who have been killed by police officers.
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Courtney Kelsey and Taliba Strickland, of St. Louis, held a sign that read “Unarmed citizen — please don’t kill me.”
Kelsey said she had hoped Stockley would be the case that would “make an example.” Instead, she said, the city’s preparations with barricades and a heightened police presence showed her that they knew what the verdict would be.
“I’m out here for all the people who can’t be out here today, who are scared, who don’t understand the impact of what happened today,” Strickland said. “I want to support my people and support the cause.”
Only a few feet away was Pigeon O’Brien, of Brentwood, holding up signs reading “Heal my racist city” and “‘I’m gonna kill him’ + killing him = premeditated murder.”
She said she believed the verdict to be unfair and wrong.
“I’m tired of the police killing black St. Louis,” O’Brien said. “We’re all St. Louisans, this is our city ... Our unofficial motto is, ‘I’m not racist, but ...’ and then they say something incredibly racist. Everybody needs to be part of the solution, everybody. Because everybody is part of the problem.”
Shortly before 4 p.m., protesters marched out of downtown, heading north. It was believed further protests would center on the Central West End on Friday night.
Video posted on Twitter on Friday showed police and protesters tangling downtown.
A video posted by Christian P. Bryant showed police in riot gear facing off with protesters.
Fox 2 reported that police said officers were attempting to get off buses when the confrontation happened. The police were being blocked by demonstrators at an intersection downtown. Police said rocks were being thrown at the buses, according to the TV station.
At one point, a group of the protesters stood in front of a city bus filled with officers in riot gear, blocking it from moving forward. The bus backed up and protesters again tried to stop it, with a few throwing water bottles. The bus moved less than a block before police in riot gear began pushing back the crowd.
As protesters resisted, two women told The Associated Press that police used pepper spray. Both women’s faces had been doused with milk, which is used to counter the effects of pepper spray.