Demonstrators took to the streets — and shopping malls — of St. Louis for a second day Saturday to protest a judge’s decision Friday to acquit a white former police officer in the 2001 fatal shooting of a black man.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson found Jason Stockley, 36, not guilty of first-degree murder and armed criminal action. On Dec. 20, 2011, the then-police officer shot 24-year-old Lamar Smith five times after a high-speed chase and crash.
Friday night’s protest turned violent after demonstrators blocked highways, damaged public and private property, threw rocks at the mayor’s house and threw bricks at police officers, who responded by dispersing tear gas. Thirty-three people were arrested and eleven police officers were injured.
“We will not tolerate violence,” Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole said Saturday, as a slew of protests across greater St. Louis kicked off.
While protests staged during Saturday afternoon and early evening were peaceful, reports began emerging later in the evening that some demonstrators were engaging in violent behavior.
Hundreds of protesters marched Saturday night through the Delmar Loop of the St. Louis suburb of University City. After three hours, organizers asked protesters to disband and reconvene Sunday afternoon.
Protest participants were united in their reason for demonstrating: To use Smith’s death as a catalyst to raise awareness of the tenuous relationship between law enforcement and communities of color.
“I don’t think racism is going to change in America until people get uncomfortable,” protest organizer Kayla Reed of the St. Louis Action Council told The Associated Press.
Susanna Prins, a white woman who carried a sign that read “White silence is violence,” chimed in, “Not saying or doing anything makes you complicit in the brutalization of our friends and neighbors.”
Earlier in the evening, more than a thousand peaceful protesters carrying “Black Lives Matter” signs and “No Justice, No Profits” briefly blocked a major intersection before dispersing.
“The message is simple: stop killing us,” Cori Bush, a social worker and activist who helped lead marchers early Saturday evening, told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Black folks say, stop killing us.”
But after a majority of the protesters left, a small group remained. They vandalized businesses and threw rocks, water bottles and garbage can lids at police officers, The Associated Press reported. A chair was thrown through the window of…