St. Louis tense over officer’s acquittal
Businesses, groups announce closings as protests continue
ST. LOUIS — On edge after a night of protests that led to dozens of arrests and a broken window at the mayor’s home, this city faced more demonstrations Saturday over the acquittal of a white former police officer who shot and killed a black driver.
Businesses and community groups announced closings, cancellations and postponements after protests ran deep into the night Friday and demonstration leaders, outraged by the acquittal, said more marches were planned. The band U2 canceled a concert, saying police couldn’t provide enough security.
City and state law enforcement officials repeatedly struck a note of warning Saturday, promising that they would not tolerate violence during the protests.
At a news conference Saturday night, Lawrence O’Toole, the city’s acting police chief, said that most of the demonstrations had been peaceful and that officers were committed to allowing peaceful protesters to speak out.
On Saturday morning, about 200 people gathered in a park in University City, outside St. Louis, preparing to march. Joan Bray, 72, a former state lawmaker who was in the crowd, said she was distressed “that the verdict was so inevitable,” adding, “It’s so sided to the police.”
Protesters also converged on West County Center, a suburban mall about 20 miles from St. Louis, and chanted, “You can’t stop revolution” and “No justice, no profits.”
The demonstrations continued at various retail sites in the afternoon.
At a news conference Saturday, Gov. Eric Greitens of Missouri praised the police and warned: “Everybody should be out there making good choices. If you riot, we’re going to cuff you. If you assault a law enforcement officer, we’re going to arrest you.”
He added: “Vandalism is not protest. Vandalism is a crime.”
This region had been bracing for weeks for the outcome of the trial, in which Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis officer, had been charged with murder in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith, a driver he chased after seeing what he suspected was a drug deal, according to defense lawyers. The shooting took place in December 2011.
After his acquittal on Friday, Stockley broke his monthslong silence and doubled down on his innocence.
“I did not murder Anthony Lamar Smith. I did not plant a gun,” he said, shaking his head, in an exclusive interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “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.”
A mall employee shut the doors to a Macy’s department store as demonstrators marched through the West County Mall on Saturday protesting the acquittal of former St. Louis police Officer Jason Stockley.