For­mer St. Louis of­fi­cer’s ac­quit­tal sparks protests

White of­fi­cer was charged in shoot­ing death of black man.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - NATION - By Jim Sal­ter and Sum­mer Bal­len­tine

ST. LOUIS — Noisy demon­stra­tors marched through two shop­ping malls in an up­scale St. Louis sub­urb Satur­day to protest the ac­quit­tal of a white for­mer St. Louis of­fi­cer in the shoot­ing of a black man, re­sum­ing protests after a night of demon­stra­tions that es­ca­lated into scat­tered acts of van­dal­ism and vi­o­lence.

A few hun­dred peo­ple walked through West County Cen­ter in Des Peres west of St. Louis, loudly chant­ing slo­gans such as “black lives mat­ter” and “it is our duty to fight for our free­dom.” A short time later, they demon­strated at Ch­ester­field Mall and at a fes­ti­val fea­tur­ing restau­rant food from across the re­gion. No ar­rests were re­ported.

The mall protests fol­lowed rau­cous day­time marches in down­town St. Louis and through the city’s posh Cen­tral West End area dur­ing the night. The pro­test­ers said they were mak­ing it clear that the en­tire re­gion, not just pre­dom­i­nantly black ar­eas of St. Louis, should feel un­com­fort­able with the judge’s ver­dict Fri­day clear­ing ex-Of­fi­cer Ja­son Stock­ley of first-de­gree mur­der in the 2011 shoot­ing death of An­thony La­mar Smith.

“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 res­i­dent of 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.

Smith’s death is just one of sev­eral high-pro­file cases in re­cent years in which white of­fi­cers have killed black sus­pects, in­clud­ing the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in nearby Fer­gu­son that sparked months of an­gry and some­times vi­o­lent protests.

The U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice said Satur­day it will not open a new civil rights in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Stock­ley case, de­spite a re­quest by NAACP St. Louis. 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 for­mer Demo­cratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s man­age­ment of the Fer­gu­son protests, sug­gest­ing that with the right pres­ence and lead­er­ship the vi­o­lence could have been more quickly sup­pressed.

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 would not.

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” that Gre­it­ens didn’t spec­ify. He 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 in flak jack­ets and hel­mets wielded ba­tons and shields as they 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.

Ten­sions flared sev­eral times, in­clud­ing when pro­test­ers blocked a bus full of riot of­fi­cers, dam­aged a po­lice cruiser with rocks and broke a win­dow and spat­tered red paint on the home of Mayor Lyda Krew­son.

SCOTT OL­SON / GETTY IM­AGES

A mall em­ployee shuts the doors to Macy’s depart­ment store as demon­stra­tors march through the West County Mall protest­ing the ac­quit­tal of for­mer St. Louis po­lice of­fi­cer Ja­son Stock­ley.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.