An undercover St. Louis police officer and an Air Force lieutenant who lives in the neighborhood were among several people who say they were forcibly arrested last weekend in the city even though they were not participating in protests over the acquittal of a white former officer in the killing of a black suspect.
About 120 people were arrested — most for failing to disperse — about two hours after vandals broke windows and threw items at police last Sunday. The officers used a tactic called kettling that boxed in demonstrators and others in the area.
Protests continued on Saturday, when several people were arrested at the upscale Galleria mall where more than 200 demonstrators marched and chanted among shoppers. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported officers briefly cleared the mall after some members of the group became unruly.
St. Louis County police said in a series of tweets that about 150 people dispersed before 22 people were arrested. Charges were expected to include trespassing, rioting, assault on a law enforcement officer, and disorderly conduct. One officer was taken to the hospital for a back injury and two demonstrators suffered minor injuries.
Also Saturday, some protesters gathered outside the America’s Center in downtown St. Louis but no arrests were reported at that demonstration.
The city’s acting police chief and Gov. Eric Greitens have praised the officers for controlling the demonstrations, but there has been growing criticism of their actions as details have emerged. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Friday alleging that the police violated people’s civil rights, and two top city officials have said some police actions were “disturbing.”
Police said people were arrested only if they didn’t follow orders to disperse, but some people said they had nowhere to go because police had boxed them in.
The undercover officer was mistaken for a suspect who was carrying chemicals that could be sprayed on officers. When the man refused to show his hands, he was knocked down and hit several times, with his hands tied behind his back and his mouth bloodied, the Post-Dispatch reported .
On Friday, Mayor Lyda Krewson asked the director of public safety to investigate how the officer was treated.
During the same protest, Air Force Lt. Alex Nelson, 27, who lives in the neighborhood with his wife, said they were trapped in the kettling, the tactic police used to box in demonstrators. He said he was kicked in the face,…