Protests turn vi­o­lent for 2nd night in St. Louis

Yuma Sun - - OPINION -

ST. LOUIS — Protests turned vi­o­lent for the sec­ond night on Satur­day after the ac­quit­tal of a white for­mer St. Louis po­lice of­fi­cer in the fa­tal shoot­ing of a black man, as a small group of demon­stra­tors re­fused to dis­perse, break­ing win­dows and throw­ing ob­jects at po­lice, who moved in with ar­mored ve­hi­cles and in riot gear.

The con­fronta­tion took place in 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 area had been the scene of a peace­ful march ear­lier in the evening that ended with or­ga­niz­ers call­ing for people to leave and re­con­vene Sun­day af­ter­noon.

But a small group of pro­test­ers re­fused to go. Hun­dreds of po­lice in riot gear even­tu­ally moved in and or­dered them to dis­perse, say­ing the protest was un­law­ful. The demon­stra­tors re­treated down a street, break­ing win­dows and throw­ing ob­jects at po­lice.

Some pro­test­ers were seen in hand­cuffs but the num­ber of ar­rests was not im­me­di­ately known.

The sud­den erup­tion of vi­o­lence had fol­lowed a day of peace­ful demon­stra­tions at subur­ban shop­ping malls and dur­ing the march in Univer­sity City.

Demon­stra­tors 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 the city of Des Peres, west of St. Louis, 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 group also demon­strated at Ch­ester­field Mall in the sub­urbs and at a re­gional food fes­ti­val.

Or­ga­niz­ers took their griev­ances to the sub­urbs Satur­day to spread the im­pact of the protests be­yond pre­dom­i­nantly black neigh­bor­hoods to those that are mainly white.

“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.

After Stock­ley was ac­quit­ted on Fri­day, nearly three-dozen people were ar­rested and 11 po­lice of­fi­cers were in­jured in­clud­ing a bro­ken jaw and dis­lo­cated shoul­der, po­lice said. Five of­fi­cers were taken to hos­pi­tals. Po­lice also said that 10 busi­nesses were dam­aged, mostly bro­ken win­dows. Pro­test­ers also broke a win­dow and spat­tered red paint on the home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krew­son.

Krew­son said she was not home at the time but her fam­ily was. She said it was “ir­ri­tat­ing” to have her house van­dal­ized.

“This story is not about whether I got my win­dows bro­ken or not. This is about com­ing to­gether to have a bet­ter St. Louis for all of us,” she told a news con­fer­ence Satur­day.

Reed said pro­test­ers went to Krew­son’s house be­cause she was not in the streets with the people even though she had ex­pressed sup­port on so­cial media.

Stock­ley was cleared in the fa­tal shoot­ing Smith, 24, after the sus­pected drug dealer fled from of­fi­cers try­ing to ar­rest him.

Stock­ley tes­ti­fied he felt he was in dan­ger be­cause he saw Smith hold­ing a sil­ver re­volver when the sus­pect backed his car to­ward of­fi­cers and sped away.

Prose­cu­tors said Stock­ley planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shoot­ing. The of­fi­cer’s DNA was on the weapon but Smith’s wasn’t.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

PRO­TEST­ERS OVERTURN TRASH cans as po­lice try to clear a vi­o­lent crowd Satur­day in Univer­sity City, Mo. Ear­lier, pro­test­ers marched peace­fully in re­sponse to a not guilty ver­dict in the trial of for­mer St. Louis po­lice of­fi­cer Ja­son Stock­ley.

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