St. Louis pro­test­ers go to up­scale malls, sub­urbs

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - NEWS - By Jim Sal­ter and Sum­mer Bal­len­tine

ST. LOUIS » Noisy demon­stra­tors dis­rupted shopping at up­scale sub­ur­ban malls on Satur­day and later marched through a pop­u­lar district of bars and restau­rants to protest a white St. Louis po­lice of­fi­cer’s ac­quit­tal in the killing of a black man, but the sec­ond day of protests was peace­ful fol­low­ing spo­radic van­dal­ism and vi­o­lence a night ear­lier.

A few hun­dred peo­ple shouted slo­gans such as “black lives matter” and “it is our duty to fight for our free­dom” as they marched through West County Cen­ter mall in Des Peres to de­cry the judge’s ver­dict Fri­day clear­ing ex-of­fi­cer Ja­son Stock­ley of first-de­gree mur­der in the 2011 shoot­ing of An­thony La­mar Smith.

A short time later, a group demon­strated at Ch­ester­field Mall and a re­gional food fes­ti­val. No ar­rests were re­ported at any of the demon­stra­tions.

On Satur­day evening, hun­dreds of pro­test­ers marched through the Del­mar Loop of the St. Louis sub­urb of Univer­sity City, known for con­cert venues, restau­rants, shops and bars and in­clud­ing the fa­mous Blue­berry Hill where rock leg­end Chuck Berry played for many years.

The protests fol­lowed rau­cous Fri­day marches in down­town St. Louis and through the city’s posh Cen­tral West End area dur­ing the night. Pro­test­ers wanted the en­tire re­gion, not just pre­dom­i­nantly black ar­eas, to be up­set with the ver­dict and feel 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, 27, a white woman from Univer­sity City, 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.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors said Satur­day they won’t open a new civil rights investigation into the killing, as the NAACP re­quested. Jus­tice Depart­ment spokes­woman Lau­ren Ehrsam said the depart­ment con­cluded in Septem­ber not to pros­e­cute, but didn’t an­nounce it then to avoid af­fect­ing the state crim­i­nal case.

Po­lice were pre­pared for a sec­ond night of protests af­ter Fri­day’s demon­stra­tions led to sev­eral clashes — in­clud­ing rocks thrown at a po­lice car and ob­jects tossed at of­fi­cers in riot gear — and cul­mi­nated when pro­test­ers broke a win­dow and spat­tered red paint on the home of Mayor Lyda Krew­son. Po­lice even­tu­ally used tear gas to clear the area.

Reed said pro­test­ers went to Krew­son’s house be­cause de­spite her sup­port on so­cial me­dia, she was not in the streets with the peo­ple.

Nearly three-dozen peo­ple were ar­rested Fri­day, po­lice said, mostly for fail­ure to dis­perse, re­sist­ing and in­ter­fer­ing.

Po­lice said 11 of­fi­cers were in­jured Fri­day, in­clud­ing a bro­ken jaw and dis­lo­cated shoul­der. Five of­fi­cers were taken to hos­pi­tals. Po­lice also said that 10 busi­nesses were dam­aged, mostly bro­ken win­dows.

Demo­cratic St. Louis Rep. Michael But­ler said po­lice were ag­gres­sive and an­tag­o­nized pro­test­ers who were largely non­vi­o­lent. Both he and Reed said vi­o­lence by a few was un­fairly used to de­scribe protests as a whole.

Gov. Eric Gre­it­ens, a Repub­li­can, was highly crit­i­cal dur­ing last year’s cam­paign of how Gov. Jay Nixon, a Demo­crat, man­aged Fer­gu­son protests, sug­gest­ing the right lead­er­ship would have led to peace by the sec­ond night.

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

Gre­it­ens put the Na­tional Guard on standby, and some troops were de­ployed to guard fire sta­tions and un­spec­i­fied “crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture.”

An­tic­i­pat­ing more demon­stra­tions, con­certs Satur­day by U2 and Sun­day by English singer-song­writer Ed Sheeran were can­celed 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 Fri­day, pre­vent­ing ef­forts to block an in­ter­state high­way or storm the city’s con­ven­tion cen­ter.

The civil dis­obe­di­ence fol­lowed the ac­quit­tal of Stock­ley for fa­tally shoot­ing Smith, 24, af­ter the sus­pected drug dealer fled from of­fi­cers try­ing to ar­rest him.

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