A group of pastors and elected officials said police used excessive force during Sunday protests at the St. Louis Galleria and denied people of their right to free speech, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Calling it a “police riot,” Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, said at the news conference Monday that the tactics police used at the Galleria were extreme and unacceptable.
Two dozen other leaders called for a thorough review of the weekend arrest of 22 protesters at the Galleria, as well as others in the region that have occurred since former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley was acquitted of first degree murder Sept. 15, the Post-Dispatch reported.
“A police riot broke out, but let me be clear, it was terrorism,” said the Rev. Karen Anderson of Ward Chapel AME Church in Florissant.
Speakers said protesters were denied access to medicine and lawyers as they were held at the St. Louis Justice Center.
A Post-Dispatch photo showed one black woman being arrested by a white police officer, who had his hand on her neck. Police said the woman jumped on the officer’s back as she tried to stop him from making an arrest. Her family and lawyers, however, say she was responding to rough treatment of her 13-year-old grandson, who was bruised and hurting from the encounter with police.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told the press that use of force at the Galleria would be reviewed, and was documented. He said law enforcement has no other choice but to intervene when protests turned to criminal activity, and that officers used a lot of discretion during the protests.
Police tweeted that dispersal orders were given loudly, and that those arrested did not leave with the rest of the peaceful protesters.