Demonstrators took to the streets again Monday morning and evening in downtown St. Louis on the fourth day of protesting the not-guilty verdict in a murder trial against a former St. Louis police officer.
Both protests stayed peaceful. Monday evening, crowds gathered outside the St. Louis City Justice Center to stand in solidarity with protestors who had been arrested Sunday night and had not yet been released. Those gathered outside collected money to try to bail out as many people as possible.
“We leave no one behind,” one of the organizers said at the start of the protest. “We are not going anywhere until they free our people.”
Monday morning, one of the organizers told Fox 2 that protestors planned to disrupt traffic and demonstrate near businesses. He said that kind of civil disobedience is effective, as it has been for decades.
An organized protest began Monday morning in front of University City High School, according to the Riverfront Times. Students marched around the intersection of Balson and Jackson avenues from 7:30-8:10 a.m., chanting “no justice, no peace” and “black lives matter.”
When asked to head into school for class, the students marched away from the school down Balson. They were eventually turned around by staff, the Riverfront Times reported.
People are protesting the verdict in a trial against ex-officer Jason Stockley, a graduate of Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville. He fatally shot Anthony Lamar Smith on Dec. 20, 2011, while on duty.
More than four years later, Stockley was charged with first-degree murder and then tried in a bench trial that ended Aug. 9.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson found Stockley not guilty Friday.
Stockley, in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said he felt relief after the verdict.
“It feels like a burden has been lifted, but the burden of having to kill someone never really lifts,” Stockley told the newspaper. “The taking of someone’s life is the most significant thing one can do, and it’s not done lightly. ... My main concern now is for the first responders, the people just trying to go to work and the protesters. I don’t want anyone to be hurt in any way over this.”
A protest that began Friday morning moved to the Central West End that evening, where four officers were assaulted, including one who was treated for a hand injury.
A second protest Saturday night eventually turned into several acts of vandalism in the Delmar Loop in University City. After peaceful protests disbanded, remaining agitators smashed storefront windows up and down Delmar Boulevard.
Following the same pattern as the previous two days, Sunday’s protests began as marches of hundreds of people chanting in opposition to the not-guilty verdict released Friday. But after organizers declared the demonstration a success and urged participants to head home, several dozen remained and grew increasingly agitated as the evening wore on.
By the time buses carrying hundreds of officers arrived, windows were broken at several businesses, plants were pulled from decorative downtown planters and police said they were sprayed with an unknown chemical.
Officers were heard chanting “whose streets, our streets,” Sunday night by several journalists, including St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer David Carson.
Carson reported that Lt. Col. Leyshock said the chanting was unacceptable and that he would deal with it.
The ACLU of Missouri issued a statement Monday saying the organization believes St. Louis police “engaged in unacceptable, unlawful and unconstitutional behavior.”
“Several videos from Sunday night show a police officer ramming a police car into a crowd,” Jeffrey A. Mittman, executive director, wrote. “This was not only dangerous, it was criminal. We ask that Mayor Lyda Krewson identify this officer and immediately remove him from active duty until there is a complete investigation.”
Mittman went on to say the organization will explore all legal avenues when it comes to the police officers who reportedly used excessive force and broke up peaceful assemblies.
“This region — and our country as a whole — have seen too many deaths caused by police, with little accountability for the officers or department involved,” Mittman wrote. “While many police officers act respectfully toward those they serve, we must acknowledge how regularly communities of color experience racial profiling and abuse from local law enforcement, including here in the St. Louis region.”
He also urged people to ask why the protests were happening in the first place.
St. Louis Catholic Archbishop Robert Carlson announced he will lead an interfaith prayer service for peace and solidarity at Kiener Plaza, 500 Chestnut Street, at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Nearly 10 leaders within the faith community will speak.
During a Sunday night press conference, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson talked about the weekend of protests.
“For the third day in the row, the days have been calm and the nights have been destructive,” Krewson said.
Krewson said after the organizers announced the daytime protest was over on Sunday, a “group of agitators” stayed behind and destroyed windows.
“This is not acceptable,” she said.
O’Toole added that on Sunday police had arrested 80 people.
“I’m proud to tell you that the city of St. Louis is safe and the police owned the night,” he said. “Our officers are doing outstanding work. Once again, a group of criminals set out to break windows and destroy property. Tonight those criminals are in jail.”
We are in control. This is our city and we are going to protect it.”
St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Lawrence O'Toole
He said those people arrested for committing crimes should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“We are in control. This is our city and we are going to protect it,” O’Toole said.
St. Louis police released the identities of 33 people who were arrested Saturday night. Two of those arrested were from Illinois: Jonathan Heise, 29, of Waterloo and Maheep Pannu, 30, of Troy. Both were charged with interfering.