On the Protests and Police Misconduct in St. Louis

[Content Note: Police brutality; racism; anti-Semitism.]

In 2011, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Jason Stockley, who is white, was caught on audio saying "going to kill this motherfucker, don't you know it," as he and another officer pursued Anthony Lamar Smith, who was Black, in a car chase. Once Smith stopped, Stockley walked to the driver's side of the vehicle and fatally shot Smith. Stockley was charged with first-degree murder.

Last week, he was acquitted.

Protesters took to the streets to object to the terrible verdict. The vast majority of demonstrators were peaceful and non-destructive. A few destroyed property, which the police then used to justify escalating their response to the protests, which turned into violent clashes.
"Many of the demonstrators were peaceful. However, after dark, many agitators began to destroy property and assault police officers," [St. Louis police Chief Lawrence O'Toole] said in a joint video statement with Mayor Lyda Krewson (D).

O'Toole said the protesters assaulted police with bricks and bottles, and officers responded by using tear gas and firing pepper-spray balls as a "less lethal option."
Marchers, including Maleeha Ahmad, who was maced by police, assert that it was police who provoked the escalation:
"The police are trying to tear us apart and make us violent, but they're the ones making it violent." She says the officers both rammed them with bikes, using the bicycles as makeshift barricades, and pepper-sprayed them.
Police in riot gear trampled and then arrested an elderly woman who was protesting, and surrounded a Jewish temple which was shielding protesters.

The police also tweeted out private addresses of arrested protesters, putting a target on their backs. And, while making those arrests, some police officers were reportedly heard chanting: "Whose streets? Our streets!"

Chief O'Toole may not have joined the chant, but he nonetheless reiterated the sentiment at a press conference this morning, saying of the arrested protesters: "These criminals that we've arrested should be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We're in control. This is our city and we're going to protect it."

This is our city. That's the chief of police saying a city belongs to the police and not to the people.


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