St. Louis tense over of­fi­cer’s ac­quit­tal

Busi­nesses, groups an­nounce clos­ings as protests con­tinue

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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.”

Scott Ol­son/Getty Images

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.

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