St. Louis sees se­cond day of protests

Po­lice of­fi­cer’s ac­quit­tal prompts demon­stra­tions at 2 up­scale malls.

The Citizens' Voice - - NATION - BY JIM SAL­TER AND SUM­MER BALLENTINE

ST. LOUIS — Noisy demon­stra­tors marched through two malls in an up­scale area of subur­ban St. Louis on 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 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.

Smith’s death is just one of sev­eral high-pro­file U.S. cases in re­cent years in which a white of­fi­cer killed a black sus­pect, 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 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.

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” 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 who wielded

ba­tons and shields 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 later broke a win­dow and spat­tered red paint on the home of Mayor Lyda Krew­son.

Af­ter a tense stand­off at the mayor’s home, po­lice used tear gas to clear the area.

Po­lice said they made nearly 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, in­clud­ing a bro­ken jaw and dis­lo­cated shoul­der, 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 tact 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.

Stock­ley’s lawyer dis­missed the com­ment as “hu­man emo­tions” ut­tered dur­ing a dan­ger­ous pur­suit and the judge said it could be am­bigu­ous.

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 self­de­fense.

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.

“I can feel for and I un­der­stand what the fam­ily is go­ing through, and I know ev­ery­one wants some­one to blame, but I’m just not the guy,” said Stock­ley, who left St. Louis’ po­lice force in 2013 and moved to Hous­ton.

‘Not say­ing or do­ing any­thing makes you com­plicit in the brutalization of our friends and neigh­bors.’ SU­SANNA PRINS Univer­sity City, Mo. res­i­dent

JEFF ROBERSON / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pro­test­ers march through West County Mall on Satur­day in re­sponse to a not guilty ver­dict in the trial of for­mer St. Louis po­lice of­fi­cer Ja­son Stock­ley, in Des Peres, Mo. Stock­ley was ac­quit­ted in the 2011 killing of a black man fol­low­ing a high­speed chase.

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