St. Louis marchers protest ex-cop’s acquittal
ST. LOUIS — Noisy demonstrators marched through two malls in an upscale area of suburban St. Louis yesterday to protest the acquittal of a white former St. Louis cop in the shooting of a black man, picking up after a night of mostly peaceful demonstrations that escalated into scattered acts of vandalism and violence.
A few hundred people walked through West County Center in Des Peres, an upscale community west of St. Louis, loudly chanting slogans such as “black lives matter” and “it is our duty to fight for our freedom” to decry the judge’s verdict Friday clearing ex-St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. A short time later, they demonstrated at Chesterfield Mall and at a festival featuring restaurant food from across the region. No arrests were reported at any of the demonstrations.
The mall protests followed raucous daytime marches in downtown St. Louis and through the city’s posh Central West End area during the night. Protesters were making it clear, they said, that the entire region, not just predominantly black areas of St. Louis, should feel uncomfortable with the verdict and its impact.
“I don’t think racism is going to change in America until people get uncomfortable,” said Kayla Reed of the St. Louis Action Council, a protest organizer.
Susanna Prins, a 27-yearold white woman from University City, another St. Louis suburb, carried a sign reading, “White silence is violence.”
“Not saying or doing anything makes you complicit in the brutalization of our friends and neighbors,” Prins said.
The U.S. Department of Justice said yesterday it will not open a new civil rights investigation into the case. The head of the NAACP St. Louis had asked for a federal investigation. Justice Department spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam said the department concluded in September 2016 that evidence did not support prosecution under criminal civil rights statutes, but did not announce it publicly until now to avoid impacting the state criminal case.
The civil disobedience followed the acquittal of Stockley for fatally shooting Smith, 24, after the suspected drug dealer crashed his car following a chase.
Stockley testified that he saw Smith holding a silver revolver as he sped away and felt he was in imminent danger as he was approaching the vehicle later.
Prosecutors said Stockley planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shooting — Stockley’s DNA was on the weapon but Smith’s wasn’t. Dashcam video from Stockley’s cruiser captured him saying he was “going to kill this (expletive), don’t you know it.” Less than a minute later, he shot Smith five times.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson said prosecutors didn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stockley murdered Smith or that the officer didn’t act in self-defense. In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the verdict, Stockley, 36, said he understands how video of the shooting looks bad, but that he did nothing wrong. Stockley left St. Louis’ police force in 2013 and moved to Houston.
‘GET UNCOMFORTABLE’: Protesters gather Friday in St. Louis after a judge found a white former police officer not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith, inset.