More than 80 people were arrested Sunday night after violent protesters took to the streets of St. Louis, Missouri, for the third day in a row to decry the Friday acquittal of a former white police officer in the shooting death of a black man.
Black Lives Matter activists and other demonstrators rejected St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson’s Friday ruling that found Jason Stockley not guilty of first-degree murder for the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith, a drug suspect. Rather than peacefully demonstrate, however, some protesters resorted to violence by destroying public property, smashing windows, and assaulting law enforcement officers Sunday night in a “concentrated area,” acting Police Commissioner Larry O’Toole said during a press briefing.
“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,” O’Toole said. “We’re in control, this is our city, and we’re going to protect it.”
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, whose own home became the target of some violent protesters Friday night when they spray-painted it and smashed windows, said during the briefing that “law enforcement has my full support” in suppressing the violence and dispersing activists.
“We saw again that the vast majority of protesters are nonviolent,” she said. “The days have been calm, but the nights have been destructive. After the demonstrations, organizers announce that the daytime protests over. But a group of agitators stay behind apparently intent on breaking windows and destroying property. This is not acceptable.”
“We have work to do here in the city. We need more and better opportunities for all our citizens, but destruction cannot be tolerated,” Krewson added.
On Friday, at least 11 police officers were injured and 33 people were arrested during the first night’s mayhem. Although Saturday began with largely peaceful protests, things quickly turned violent as protesters chucked bricks, rocks, and other projectiles at officers, resulting in nine arrests.
But the violence appeared to escalate even further on Sunday when riot gear-clad officers made their more than 80 arrests after demonstrators refused to disperse, destroyed property, and attempted to clog an interstate highway ramp. Some protesters attempted to shift the blame for the violence on the police, claiming that the riot gear and the armored vehicles used to disperse the violent activists inflamed tensions and were unnecessary. But police argued the precautions were necessary to protect the public.
Some protest organizers were left dismayed by the ensuing violence. Organizer Anthony Bell begged the demonstrators to practice Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s form of peaceful protesting.
“I do not say the demonstrators are wrong, but I believe peaceful demonstrations are the best,” Bell said, Fox News Insider reported.
State Rep. Bruce Franks (D), who also attended the protest, said those demonstrators who practice violence “are not protesters” and do not represent the marchers and the organizers.
The weekend protests and violence also forced U2 and Ed Sheeran to cancel their planned St. Louis concerts due to security concerns arising from the fact that police officers would be stretched far too thinly across the city to accommodate them.
The St. Louis Police Department’s Twitter account championed a quote from O’Toole early Monday morning, saying, “Those who set out to do damage were arrested & should be prosecuted. This is our city & we will protect it.”
“We’re disappointed that criminals are disrupting the public’s ability to enjoy Downtown #STL. Officers working to secure area,” the department added.
The department also included pictures of guns, other weapons, a mask and other protective gear confiscated from a rioter who had been taken into custody.