St. Louis Riot police arrested dozens Sunday night following the latest round of clashes with demonstrators protesting the acquittal of a white police officer in the shooting death of a black man.
At least 80 arrests were made in what was the third night of violence in the city, with hundreds of people protesting Friday’s court decision that found Jason Stockley, a 36-year-old cop, not guilty in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith.
The verdict has enraged some of the city’s residents, prompting daily protests that at times turned violent. Both Friday and Saturday, the protesters got agitated and confronted the police officers. Thirty were arrested on Saturday night. On Sunday, hundreds marched through the downtown streets of St. Louis. Despite the march remaining peaceful in the early hours amid the deployment of massive police forces, the protest turned violent by nightfall after roughly 100 protesters became confrontational while marching towards the center of downtown.
The violent agitators reportedly damaged property and sprayed unknown substance on police officers. One cop suffered a leg injury and was taken to the hospital, the police said.
After ignoring the call to disperse, arrests were made before midnight by officers wearing riot gear and successfully cleared the streets of protesters. “Whose streets, our streets,” some cops shouted as they liberated the streets from violent agitators.
Organizers of the protest are fearing that violent marchers are giving a bad name to the cause, making it harder to spread the message.
Mayor Lyda Krewson told reporters at a late-night news conference that “the vast majority of protesters are non-violent,” and the violence was perpetrated by “a group of agitators,” Reuters reported.
Bruce Franks, Democratic State Representative, who participated in the march, seconded the Mayor, saying people who engage in violence “are not protesters” but rather a distinctive group from the actual marchers.
Protest organizer Anthony Bell, however, said that while he believes non-violence is the best way to achieve change, he does not condemn the violent protesters, citing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I do not say the demonstrators are wrong, but I believe peaceful demonstrations are the best,” he said.
Some protesters have defended themselves saying the police provoked the violence by showing up in riot gear and armored vehicles. Police said the measures were taken to ensure safety of their officers as the protesters throw things at them.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Police giving order to disperse immediately at Tucker and Pine. This is no longer a peaceful protest. #stlverdict
— St. Louis, MO Police (@SLMPD) September 18, 2017