Category Archives: Local

Demonstrators Mark 3-Year Anniversary of Vonderritt Myers, Jr. Death

MCNS Staff

Vonderrit Myers Jr.

Vonderrit Myers Jr.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched in the Shaw neighborhood Sunday night to commemorate the 3rd anniversary of the police shooting death of Vonderritt Myers, Jr.

Protesters carried signs saying “Black Lives Matter” and “Police Lies Murder” during the march through the south St. Louis neighborhood.

Having gathered around 6pm at the intersection of Shaw Boulevard and Klemm St., demonstrators proceeded south on Klemm, turned east on Flora toward Grand and circled back around to the origin location. The family of the fallen 18-year old, including his father, Vonderritt Myers, Sr., and mother, Syreeta Myers participated, among the hundreds of marchers carrying candles and releasing balloons. March leaders announced that the organized action ended at about 8:45pm.

The Myers demonstration is one of many marches happening throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area that have reemerged after the not-guilty verdict of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley. Often several times per day, the “No Justice, No Profits” protests have caused some temporary business closures and resulted in millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Vonderritt Myers, Jr. was shot and killed by former St. Louis police officer Jason Flanery on Oct. 8, 2014, while the officer worked a secondary job for a private security company. Flanery’s statement to investigators that Myers shot at him was, at the time, controversial. The fatal police shooting of Vonderritt Myers, Jr. led to months of protests that coincided with demonstrations against racism and the police shooting death of Michael Brown, Jr. Investigators later stated that evidence supported Flanery’s claims.

Flanery abruptly resigned from the police department in January 2016 after he was charged with a DWI in a different incident in which he was driving his police car and struck a parked car.

ACLU Sues City of St. Louis for Police Misconduct

By MCNS Staff

Police advancing on protesters during demonstrations Sunday night, September 17.

Police advancing on protesters during demonstrations Sunday night, September 17.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed suit against the city of St. Louis for “unlawful and unconstitutional” treatment of protesters opposing the recent acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley.

The lawsuit was announced in a press release on the ACLU’s website and focuses on what it calls police misconduct using chemical weapons, interfering with videoing of police activity and violating due process during demonstrations Sunday night in which 123 were arrested. Those persons arrested include an undercover policeman infiltrating the demonstrations and members of the media, who were corralled in the fray and detained.

The ACLU press release recounts that protestors and bystanders had chemical weapons used against them without proper protocol. It says police also interfered with people recording police activities in photos and on video. On Sunday, the release states, police in riot gear “unlawfully detained people – violating their due process rights – when St. Louis Police used a tactic called ‘kettling’ during a protest downtown.”

The lawsuit says, “Without further instruction or warning… police officers surrounded protestors, observers, and members of the press, cutting off all routes of egress — including via any sidewalk — and prohibiting the people trapped inside from leaving.”

Police officers then used chemical agents without warning on those caught in the area.

Officers removed the goggles some people were wearing and “then sprayed those individuals directly in the face,” the suit states.

The lawsuit also states police have ordered people to delete photos and videos from their phones and cameras.

Plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are Maleeha Ahmad and Alison Dreith, both residents of St. Louis.

The plaintiffs are arguing for a court order requiring that protesters disperse “in a constitutional manner” and that the city follow the Constitution in how police act at protests.

“I think everyone deserves the same rights as I do. I just want peace and justice,” said plaintiff Maleeha Ahmad. “If it hadn’t been for my fellow peaceful protestors – strangers who came to my aid – I don’t know how my eyesight would be today.  I would have been left out in the sun, on the ground, with my face burning.”

“St. Louis should be a place where all people feel safe against retaliation from law enforcement, and all should receive due process. We should strive to be a place where every citizen feels supported by the communities we call home. This is the vision that drives us into the streets and inspires us to hold our leaders accountable when they betray our values,” said plaintiff Alison Dreith.

Both plaintiffs state that they were pepper sprayed by police without warning on September 15.

Week of Demonstrations Follow Stockley Verdict

A protest held moments after Jason Stockley's not-guilty verdict.

A protest held moments after Jason Stockley’s not-guilty verdict.

By S. Christopher Emerson

Demonstrations opposing the September 15 not guilty verdict in the first-degree murder trial against White former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley continue in the St. Louis metropolitan area organized by the “Don’t Shoot Coalition” and others. Friday, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed a resolution honoring Anthony Lamar Smith, and that afternoon, a protest was held at the St. Louis Outlet Mall in Hazelwood.

Actions began downtown moments after the announcement of St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson’s highly-anticipated ruling acquitted Stockley of pre-meditated murder in the 2011 shooting death of 24 year-old Anthony Lamar Smith who is Black. Protests call for justice and an end to racism in the wake of yet another case of a White police officer killing a Black person and evading or being found not guilty under criminal prosecution.

Protesters had promised to disrupt business in the area if Stockley was found not guilty, until progressive change is made. The protests have been largely nonviolent, with demonstrators marching on business and government districts, and there have been over 150 arrests and some property damage in the late hours of the first few days after the announcement. In anticipation of the verdict announcement, Gov. Eric Greitens placed the National Guard on standby.

The city has been gripped in racial tensions since the shooting death of Black teenager Michael Brown Jr., and the non-indictment of his killer, former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. The incident set off months of highly-publicized local and national protests against racism and police brutality.

The following is a recap of events following the conclusion of the Stockley trial:

  • Thursday, September 21, a crowd of a few dozen people chanting and carrying “Black Lives Matter” signs gathered near the intersection of Skinker and Clayton Road at around 3:00pm. They marched mostly on the sidewalk, heading west on Clayton, then diverted into the parking lot of the Cheshire Inn, protesting for a few minutes before dispersing. Later that afternoon, hundreds of protesters gathered for a “White Allies Only” march on Kiener Plaza downtown, prompted by calls to action at a demonstration near the Galleria the day before. After a rally on the plaza, the protesters marched onto Broadway, blocked the intersection at Market Street for several minutes, then marched down to Busch Stadium where a Billy Joel concert was in progress. The group demonstrated outside the stadium for about a half hour, which caused some tensions with concert goers. There were no arrests.
  • Several hundred protesters gathered Wednesday at about 5:00 pm at Shaw Park in Clayton and marched onto Brentwood Blvd near the Galleria chanting slogans like “Shut it Down” and “No Justice, No Profits.” Demonstrators continued down Brentwood until they were met by a police road block and a busload of officers in riot gear at Highway 40, but there were no arrests. The gathering prompted the early closing of the Galleria. After officers announced that the assembly was unlawful, protesters dispersed around 7:00 pm.
  • Muslim, Jewish and Christian clergy called for justice at an interfaith service on a steamy Tuesday afternoon Kiener Plaza, before marching to City Hall. There were no actions planned for Tuesday, a day called by protest organizers as a day of “self care.”
  • Throngs of demonstrators stood firmly during spotty showers as they chanted slogans like “Free our people” and “I know that we will win” on Tucker Boulevard in front of the Justice Center downtown on Monday evening. The gathering was largely in response to 123 arrests during protests the previous night. Marking the occasion, the group observed a moment in which many activated their cell phone flashes, creating a poignant sea of lights in the dark, cloudy evening street, in support of friends and loved ones being held inside.
  • Lively protests on Sunday attracted over 3000 participants and included a die-in at police headquarters at 20th and Olive and a march that stretched several blocks to and from St. Louis University. Annie Smith, mother of Anthony Lamar Smith, and family assisted by Alderman John Collins-Muhammad, Rep. Bruce Franks, Jr. and Brother Anthony Shahid led the earlier parts of the actions. After organizers announced the end of the action, a couple hundred protesters marched through downtown on Washington, and after engagement from police, damaged some property. Police arrested 123 protesters that evening. Several concerns about police behavior arose. Protesters took to social media after discovering several undercover police mixed in the crowds throughout the night. Also, as riot police faced off protesters, they co-opted the chant “Whose Streets? Our Streets!” in an apparent effort to intimidate the crowd. At around 1:00 am, police Chief Lawrence O’Toole declared of law enforcement “We’re in control. This is our city, and we’re going to protect it.” Mayor Lyda Krewson later denounced the chant and characterized O’Toole’s comments as “inflammatory.”
  • Saturday, September 16, hundreds of demonstrations marched through West County Mall in Des Peres. Many businesses closed as the protesters chanted popular slogans through the hallways. Later that afternoon, Alderman Collins-Muhammad and Rep. Franks, Jr. led protesters through the Delmar Loop, down Skinker and back in a march that garnered a couple thousand people. Later, after organizers called off the action, some windows were smashed, and police attended with riot gear.
  • Friday night, demonstrations in the Central West End led a march down Kingshighway to Highway 40, where the march was met by police. Returning to Euclid and Maryland, organizers led a sit-in there. Later, sporadic marches and encounters with police ensued, including a scene where rocks where thrown at Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home, which led to video footage of pepper sprays and some tear gassing of the major thoroughfare and the adjacent shopping district.

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Aldermen Remind Officials of Engagement Rules Before Stockley Verdict

By S. Christopher Emerson6761208911_19d3958d41_z

The St. Louis African American Aldermanic Caucus has penned a letter to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and Commissioner of Police Lawrence O’Toole on Thursday, ahead of the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of ex-cop Jason Stockley, rendered Friday.

The letter reminds city leaders of the Rules of Engagement guidelines for police conduct that were developed by the Don’t Shoot Coalition along with law enforcement officials including former police chief Sam Dotson. They were created after violent police responses against peaceful Ferguson protesters following the shooting death of Michael Brown by former officer Darren Wilson.

Stockley fatally shot Anthony Lamar Smith, 24, after a police chase in 2011 before which the officer declared his intent to kill the Black man. The chase and shooting was captured on dash cam.

The letter encourages law enforcement to exercise restraint in light of police discretion in addressing protests. “It is our opinion, that there should be a balance between authorities trying to maintain “order” and peoples’ right to expression and peaceful civil disobedience,” the letter, signed by senior Black alderman Terry Kennedy states.

The caucus also tells city officials that they support the implementation of rules in advance of the release of the Stockley verdict.

Many suspect the verdict may cause more protests because of mounting racial tensions over police killings of unarmed Blacks. Demonstrators have declared that protests will occur if the verdict came back not guilty. Gov. Greitens has begun mobilizing the National Guard.