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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