Sec­ond day of protests fol­lows cop’s ac­quit­tal

Demon­stra­tors march through St. Louis malls


ST. LOUIS - Noisy demon­stra­tors marched through two malls in an up­scale area of sub­ur­ban St. Louis Saturday to protest the ac­quit­tal of a white for­mer St. Louis of­fi­cer in the shoot­ing of a black man, pick­ing up af­ter a night of mostly peace­ful protests 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 food fes­ti­val. 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.

Smith’s death is just one of sev­eral high-pro­file U.S. cases in re­cent years in which a white of­fi­cer killed a black sus- pect, in­clud­ing the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in nearby Fer­gu­son that sparked months of protests.

The U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice said Saturday 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 af­fect­ing the state crim­i­nal case.

Repub­li­can Gov. Eric Gre­it­ens was highly crit­i­cal dur­ing his 2016 cam­paign of how for­mer Demo­cratic Gov. Jay Nixon man­aged the Fer­gu­son protests, sug­gest­ing that with the right pres­ence and lead­er­ship, there could have been peace by the sec­ond night.

In ad­vance of the Stock­ley ver­dict, Gre­it­ens met with Smith’s fi­ancée, black state law­mak­ers, black St. Louis faith lead­ers and law en­force­ment in the hopes of pro­ject­ing a shared mes­sage that peace­ful protest would be tol­er­ated but vi­o­lence wouldn’t.

Be­fore the ver­dict, Gre­it­ens put the Na­tional Guard on standby, and some troops were de­ployed Fri­day night to guard fire sta­tions and other “crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture.” Gre­it­ens was in St. Louis Fri­day night and met with lo­cal law en­force­ment of­fi­cials.

Po­lice erected bar­ri­cades around their own head­quar­ters and the court­house, and dozens of of­fi­cers cor­ralled demon­stra­tors through­out the day and evening.

Demon­stra­tors oc­ca­sion­ally lobbed ob­jects into the for­ti­fied line of of­fi­cers, who used pep­per spray to re­pel the crowd.

Po­lice said they made two dozen ar­rests be­fore dark and more in the evening, though they still hadn’t pro­vided an up­dated fig­ure more than 12 hours later.

Po­lice re­ported that 10 of­fi­cers suf­fered in­juries by the end of the night, and some jour­nal­ists re­ported hav­ing equip­ment dam­aged and be­ing threat­ened by pro­test­ers.

An­tic­i­pat­ing more demon­stra­tions Saturday, the band U2 can­celed its evening con­cert in St. Louis be­cause the po­lice depart­ment said it wouldn’t be able to pro­vide its stan­dard pro­tec­tion for the event, or­ga­niz­ers said.

Po­lice gen­er­ally stayed a step ahead of pro­test­ers on Fri­day, prevent­ing them from ef­forts to block an in­ter­state high­way or storm the city’s con­ven­tion cen­ter.

Pro­test­ers seemed to be tak­ing a dif­fer­ent tack on Saturday. Dur­ing a morn­ing gath­er­ing in a sub­ur­ban park, they forced mem­bers of the me­dia to stand away from them, over the ob­jec­tions of re­porters, in­clud­ing one from The Associated Press. At that meet­ing, they de­vised the plan to meet at the malls.

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.