After a week of tension between police and people protesting the acquittal of a former St. Louis police officer, the Missouri ACLU sent a letter to St. Louis county officials, reminding them what “proper police conduct” is.
The letter, addressed to Steve Senger, county executive, Jim Thomson, Richmond Heights mayor, and St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, urged officials to learn from the past and allow the community to nonviolently express their right to free speech.
“We must allow the community to continue to express its outrage, pain and grief,” the letter read.
This letter, urging against “what appears to be unnecessary use of force by police” comes after more than a week of protests, which started Sept. 15 when former officer Jason Stockley was found not guilty in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith.
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Specifically pointing out police action at the St. Louis Galleria on Sept. 23, where 22 people were arrested, the ACLU said tackling protestors and arresting them in ways that cause bodily injury is unnecessary.
St. Louis county and city police departments have been continuously tweeting about the protests and arrests, trying to debunk rumors and give their side of the story. On Saturday during protests at the Galleria, county police tweeted that they ordered people to disperse, then said “No one has the right to destroy the property of others and remain on private property after being asked to leave.”
The ACLU urged the county officials to remind officers to not use force against protestors unless there’s a “real and immediate” threat of harm to others and to not use pepper spray and tear gas without making sure Constitutional rights are still protected. Officers’ name tags should be visible at all times, and they must have their body cameras turned on, ACLU wrote.
“We hope that you will take responsibility to guarantee the rights of all people,” the ACLU wrote. “If you fail to do so, we will explore all legal options to make sure the Constitutional rights of the people are protected and respected.”
This letter comes a day after the ACLU announced that it was filing a lawsuit against the city of St. Louis for unconstitutional conduct of police officers against people during the protests. The lawsuit focuses on police misconduct with chemical weapons, interfering with recording of police activity and a ‘kettling’ technique police used Sept. 17 to round up and arrest about 100 people during protests in Delmar Loop.