For the second consecutive night, peaceful daytime protests descended into late-night violence with broken windows and thrown rocks, water bottles and garbage can lids following Friday’s acquittal of a white former police officer in the shooting death of a black suspect. A small group of demonstrators refused to disperse, breaking windows at dozens of businesses and throwing objects at police, who moved in with hundreds of officers in riot gear to make arrests.
According to the Asociated Press, the confrontation took place late Saturday night in the Delmar Loop area of University City, a suburb about 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of St. Louis near Washington University. The area is known for concert venues, restaurants, shops and bars, and includes the Blueberry Hill club where rock legend Chuck Berry played for many years.
A pocket of protesters threw bricks, rocks and projectiles with paint at police as officers tried to disperse the crowds. Nine people were arrested Saturday night during the protests, two police departments in the area said.
Shortly before 11 p.m. at Leland and Delmar, a small group of protesters threw chunks of concrete at police and broke windows at numerous Delmar Loop businesses. A chair was thrown through the window of a Starbucks.
One protester was seen hitting a police SUV with a hammer. Police made more than a half-dozen arrests witnessed by reporters, including a protester who was carried away by officers by his arms and legs.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of protesters marched through the Delmar Loop near nightfall Saturday, as Mayor Lyda Krewson appealed to residents for calm and normalcy going into the second night of protests.
“These are not the images we want to see of our city,” Krewson told reporters at an early evening news conference, referring to violence in the Central West End the night before that included damage to her house. “We have some work to do here.”
She implored residents to “go about their lives” amid canceled events and uncertainty about how long the unrest would continue. “I know our small-business owners would appreciate seeing you again,” she said. “Of course, go to work, of course go out to eat. We shouldn’t be so fearful here.”
By shortly after 7 p.m. Saturday, more than a thousand protesters carrying “Black Lives Matter” signs and chanting things like “No Justice, No Profits” were blocking the major intersection at Skinker and Forest Park Parkway near Washington University. Police later closed Delmar for the marchers, who were relatively peaceful going into the evening. Some yelled “F— the police!” while others shook officers’ hands.
As the chaos escalated, scores of police officers in riot gear pushed forward against the demonstrators just after 11 p.m. — about two hours after daytime protest organizers had congratulated their followers on keeping their demonstrations peaceful. By 11:30, about 200 police officers had pushed most of the protesters out of the area and the violence and vandalism appeared to be dissipating. The sidewalks along the vibrant area of restaurants and shops were strewn with glass from broken windows.
University City had been the scene of a peaceful march earlier in the evening to protest the previously discussed ruling on Friday which cleared ex-officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith. That march ended with organizers calling for people to leave and reconvene Sunday afternoon.
But a few dozen protesters refused to go. Police ordered them to disperse, saying the protest was illegal. Hundreds of police in riot gear eventually moved in with armored vehicles. The demonstrators retreated down a street, breaking windows with trash cans and throwing objects at police.
Among property damage Friday night, police said in a statement, were broken windows and thrown red paint at Krewson’s home near Lake and Waterman; shattered windows at various locations in the area including a Subway sandwich shop, a Walgreen’s, the St. Louis Public Library’s Schlafly Branch, and several local businesses; broken vehicle windows including those on two police vehicles; and 18 fires.
Among numerous canceled St. Louis events for the weekend were planned concerts by U2 and Ed Sheeran, because police couldn’t guarantee security.
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Cori Bush, a social worker and activist who is running for Congress in Missouri’s St. Louis-based 1st District, helped lead the marchers early Saturday evening. At the intersection of Skinker and Delmar boulevards, she called for a six-minute “die-in” for the six years since the fatal police shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith. Bush said city officials and media focused too much on the vandalism in the Central West End late Friday night.
“None of it could’ve happened at all, had there not been a dead body, had there not been a police officer who did something absolutely horrendous,” she said on loud speaker to the crowd. “The message is simple: stop killing us,” she said. “Black folks say, stop killing us.”
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Several protesters were seen in handcuffs, and city and county police later tweeted that they had arrested at least nine people. Police were seen carrying one handcuffed man away from the scene upside down. At least one demonstrator was treated after he was hit with pepper spray.
After the burst of violence ended, a reporter for The Associated Press found at least half of the businesses on one side of the street with broken windows along a two block area.
Sam Thomas, who was helping his friend clean up the glass from the shattered windows of his clothing and accessories boutique, OSO, said he understood why people were angry. The U.S. justice system is broken and needs to be fixed, Thomas said.
“I’m not saying this is the right way to fix it,” he said of the damage. “The window isn’t murdered. Nobody is going to have a funeral for the window. We can replace it.”
As reported yesterday, on Friday night, nearly three-dozen people were arrested and 11 police officers suffered injuries, including a broken jaw and dislocated shoulder. Five officers were taken to hospitals. Police said 10 businesses were damaged that night, and protesters broke a window and spattered red paint on the home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.
Saturday night’s violence also capped a day of noisy but peaceful demonstrations at suburban shopping malls.
Protesters shouted slogans such as “no justice, no profits”, “black lives matter” and “it is our duty to fight for our freedom” as they marched through West County Center mall in the suburb of Des Peres, west of St. Louis.
A group also demonstrated at another suburban shopping center, the Chesterfield Mall, and at a regional food festival. Organizers hoped to spread the impact of the protests beyond predominantly black neighborhoods to those that are mainly white.
Organizers Saturday night said they planned a “die in” on Sunday at 3 p.m. near St. Louis Police headquarters on Olive Street.
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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.
Stockley wasn’t charged until May of last year, which was three years after he left the force a moved to Houston and more than four years after his December 2011 confrontation with Smith. The former police officer shot Smith after Smith fled from Stockley and his partner, who were trying to arrest him for a suspected drug deal. Stockley, 36, testified that he felt he was in danger because he saw Smith holding a silver revolver when Smith backed his car toward the officers and sped away.