Protests plagued the city of St. Louis over the weekend after a former cop was acquitted of murder in the 2011 shooting death of a black man.
What caused the protests?
On Friday, former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, a white man, was acquitted of first-degree murder after he shot and killed 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, in a suspected drug deal in 2011.
During a high-speed chase with Smith, Stockley was recorded telling his partner he was “going to kill” Smith “don’t you know it.” Prosecutors argued at trial that Stockley planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shooting to make it appear justified. Stockley’s defense team denied that he had planted evidence and argued the shooting was legal.
In the end, St. Louis Circuit court Judge Timothy Wilson acquitted Stockley, saying he was “simply not firmly convinced of defendant’s guilt,” according to the New York Times.
Protests broke out almost immediately afterward and have been ongoing since. Protests on Friday were mostly peaceful until demonstrators gathered at St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home and vandalized it by splattering paint on the structure and busting two windows, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Agitators have converged on Mayor Krewson's house. Throwing rocks and breaking windows, despite being instructed not to. #STLVerdict
— St. Louis, MO Police (@SLMPD) September 16, 2017
One of the most newsworthy incidents of the day happened when an angry “mob” surrounded KTVI-TV reporter Dan Gray, who was covering the protests, and began berating him.
“You’ve been reporting on black-on-black crime for 30 years and didn’t do anything,” one protester told him. Gray was eventually helped to safety by another demonstrator.
During the night’s demonstrations, 11 police officers were injured and authorities made 33 arrests.
— St. Louis, MO Police (@SLMPD) September 15, 2017
Saturday’s protests mainly took place at an area mall in Chesterfield. The protests were mostly peaceful.
Chesterfield Mall protest pic.twitter.com/3MNj67PM1g
— Search4Swag (@search4swag) September 16, 2017
The demonstrations later became violent when a group of protesters refused to disperse. They broke windows in nearby businesses and hurled objects at police.
Following the night’s demonstrations, nine people were arrested, while 11 officers were injured. Twenty-three businesses and five police vehicles were also damaged, according to NBC News.
Rock band U2 and pop singer Ed Sheeran also announced that planned concerts were cancelled after police informed them they didn’t have the resources to provide adequate security for the events, ABC News reported.
On Sunday, the third consecutive day of protests, about 1,000 demonstrators gathered outside the St. Louis police department. While there, demonstrators held a “die in” protest, meaning they laid on the ground and pretended they were dead.
The protests began mostly peaceful, but as demonstrators made their way into Midtown, they became increasingly violent. Agitators broke windows and vandalized properties, according to St. Louis Today.
Acting police Chief Larry O’Toole said Monday morning: “Some criminals assaulted law enforcement officers and threw chemicals and rocks at them. All of the officers’ injuries were minor or moderate. All will be returned to duty soon. We’re in control, this is our city, and we’re going to protect it.”
According to CNN, more than 80 people were arrested during the night’s demonstrations, while multiple weapons were seized. At least one police officer was taken to the hospital with a leg injury.
— St. Louis, MO Police (@SLMPD) September 18, 2017
Will it continue?
People are angry, so the protests will likely continue this week and maybe longer as demonstrators demand answers. After all, the area is deeply aware of their role in the national debate about police brutality and systemic racism after the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, Missouri.
Not every American can personally empathize with the sentiment being felt by so many in St. Louis, but there are tens of thousands — likely hundreds of thousands or millions — who feel there is a problem that continues to go unchecked. They want answers. I would, too.
The vast majority of demonstrators are peaceful and there are only a few dozen who cause chaos each night after peaceful protesters disperse. Don’t let the few bad apples paint the entire bucket dirty. Whether or not their feelings are reality, the pain is real — and thankfully our Founding Fathers placed a vehicle in our Constitution that lets us voice our pain.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to add additional information about Sunday’s protests.