Hundreds of police officers in full riot gear responded to the streets of downtown St. Louis after another day of peaceful demonstrations over a former police officer’s acquittal in the death of a black man gave way to property damage and dangerous encounters with officers.
Another round of protests were planned for Monday, with demonstrators planning to meet at 7 a.m. near Union Station downtown.
A judge on Friday ruled that Jason Stockley, a 36-year-old who left the department and moved to Houston three years ago, was not guilty in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith. The ruling set of raucous protests throughout the weekend.
Hundreds of people marched through the streets of downtown, the posh Central West End, and the trendy Delmar Loop area of nearby University City. Protesters also marched through two shopping malls in a wealthy area of St. Louis County.
Sunday’s protest began at the police headquarters downtown. Following the same pattern of the previous days, well over 1,000 people marched peacefully for several hours.
By nightfall, most had gone home. The 100 or so demonstrators who remained grew increasingly agitated as they marched toward the core of downtown. Along the way, they began to knock over planters, broke windows at a few shops and hotels, and scattered plastic chairs at an outdoor venue.
Things got worse when, according to police, demonstrators sprayed bottles with an unknown substance on officers. Police were still trying to determine what was in the bottles.
One officer suffered a leg injury and was taken to a hospital. His condition was not known.
Soon after, buses brought in additional officers in riot gear, and police continued to search downtown deep into the night.
Police made dozens of arrests shortly before midnight when people ignored orders to disperse.
Later, officers in riot gear gathered along the side of Tucker Boulevard chanting “whose street, our street,” a common refrain used by the protesters, after successfully clearing the street of demonstrators and onlookers.
Protest organizers said they were frustrated that a few people who have caused trouble at night could make it harder to spread their nonviolent message.
State Rep. Bruce Franks, a Democrat who has participated in the protests, said those who are violent and vandalizing “are not protesters,” but a group separate from those marching in organized demonstrations.
Others, though, understood the anger that often comes out….