Protests in St. Louis, Missouri, turned violent Friday night as hundreds condemned the acquittal of a white ex-police officer earlier in the day. Demonstrators smashed the mayor’s window, damaged private and public property, set a dumpster and an American flag on fire, and threw objects at police officers.
The St. Louis Police Department deployed officers clad in riot gear to contain the violent demonstrators, who took to the streets to protest the acquittal of former officer Jason Stockley, who faced murder charges for the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, who was black. More than 1,000 protesters and Black Lives Matter activists showed up to decry the verdict. Many protested peacefully, but others carried firearms and other weapons and engaged in violence and destruction.
The police used tear gas on some of the more violent activists, who destroyed at least two windows on Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home and splattered paint on the building.
At least 10 officers were injured during the course of the evening’s violence and 32 arrests were made, according to a statement police spokeswoman Schron Jackson gave reporters early Saturday morning. A few officers suffered injuries sustained from flying bricks, one suffered a dislocated shoulder, and another had a possibly broken jawbone, acting Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole said in a video the department tweeted early Saturday morning.
“Many of the demonstrators were peaceful,” he said in the video. “However, after dark, many agitators began to destroy property and assault police officers.”
“Orders to disperse were given numerous times,” O’Toole added. “Tear gas was deployed after officers were assaulted with bricks and bottles. Officers did deploy pepper balls as a less-than-lethal option after agitators continued to assault officers with objects and destroy property.”
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) said in a Facebook post late Friday night, “I will protect people’s constitutional right to peacefully protest, but violence will not be tolerated. We will protect people’s lives, homes, and communities.”
Greitens told Fox News’ local St. Louis outlet that “our law enforcement officers know that everyone has the constitutional right to peacefully protest, and they have proactively been going out and making it known that people who are peaceful, they are there to protect them and support them.”
“They have also made it very clear that assaulting a law enforcement officer is not a peaceful protest,” the governor added.
Many of the activists said they showed up Friday because they believed the acquittal was evidence of a racist system.
“We’re very angry, we’re tired, and we’re just bringing awareness to let this community know, this is not OK and let this judge know his ruling was not OK,” protester Bishop Derrick Robinson said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’re upset by his ruling, and we’re out here today to continue to bring awareness and disturbance on the day.”
Activist Johnny Roberts said, “We are all subjected to white supremacy, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Demonstrator Anthony Shahid said the judge’s ruling provided further proof of “white privilege.”
“This is what you call white privilege,” Shahid said. “This is what you call unconstitutional, the Post-Dispatch reported. “We don’t even have constitutional rights. This is what you call human rights being violated … What they’re doing throughout America they’re treating us like … rats and roaches.”
Some activists moved beyond destroying private and public property to attack police officers and threaten reporters covering the protest. One freelance Associated Press videographer claimed that a protester snatched his camera, damaged it while throwing it to the ground and threaten to administer a beating if the videographer refused to keep his camera at bay. A KTVI reporter claimed that a protester verbally accosted him and drew a crowd to the scene while pelting the reporter with water bottles.
Activists threatened to carry the protests into Saturday.