Religious leaders and elected officials called for a full investigation into the weekend arrests of protesters at the St. Louis Galleria, alleging excessive force.
State representatives, aldermen and pastors joined at a press conference Monday, decrying the arrests of 22 people during a demonstration walking through the Galleria on Saturday. In one controversial news photograph, a police officer appears to be choking an older black woman; police said she attacked the officer first, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Protests have taken place every day in the 10 days since former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley was acquitted of murder in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011. The Missouri Attorney General’s office announced Monday that it will investigate whether police withheld information about Smith’s death from the prosecutor’s office.
Attorneys representing arrested protesters said they were not being permitted to see their clients, and medicine brought by family members was turned away by police.
Some Galleria protesters were released after more than 24 hours in jail, according to the Riverfront Times. Of the 22 arrested, 15 were not charged.
Another demonstration took place in Clayton awaiting the release of those arrested at the Galleria, and at the St. Louis Airport Marriott where former White House adviser Steve Bannon gave a speech.
The ACLU of Missouri, which has already filed a lawsuit against St. Louis over police tactics, issued an open letter over the weekend asking city leaders to remind law enforcement of the Constitutional requirements of policing demonstrations. Another lawsuit, filed by the MacArthur Justice Center, alleges that police are required to cite and release protesters instead of jailing them, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Meanwhile, more than 40 St. Louis-area businesses have signed a petition supporting the ongoing protests and criticizing police response as overly violent and unconstitutional. “The damage that we have or potentially could sustain during these demonstrations is a small price to pay in the fight for justice,” it reads. “We recognize that glass can be replaced, that profit is not everything and can eventually be recovered, and that fear of these problems heading to our business districts or our shops is fleeting.”
Signers include the owners of Left Bank Books, MoKaBe’s, Golden Grocer, Pi Pizzeria, the Crow’s Nest and several others. Pi Pizzeria was blasted by the St. Louis police union late last week because of statements by its owner on social media; a pro-police protest in front of Pi Pizzeria drew few protesters, according to the Riverfront Times.
In Belleville on Sunday, about 50 demonstrators protested downtown, despite receiving death threats on their Facebook page, according to the organizers.
Police response to the ongoing protests has been criticized in many different circles. A photojournalism student who was arrested a week ago during protests alleges he and others were placed in danger, left in a van with demonstrators who were angry with them as press photographers, according to the Columbia Missourian.