More protests break out in St Louis after acquittal in police shooting

VIDEO: REUTERS
Protesters fall as they are pushed back by police in riot gear, Sept 15, 2017.
Protesters fall as they are pushed back by police in riot gear, Sept 15, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

ST LOUIS (REUTERS) - Activists marched through two upscale shopping malls and into the streets of St Louis on Saturday (Sept 16), marking a second day of demonstrations against the acquittal of a white police officer in the fatal shooting of a black man.

Several hundred people gathered near Washington University after dark to cap off a day of rallies across St Louis and a nearby suburb that remained peaceful.

That contrasted with Friday night, when 10 police officers were hurt and 33 people arrested in demonstrations after Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson acquitted former St Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley, 36, of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith, 24.

 

"We don't want to see property destruction or see people getting hurt," Elad Gross, 29, a St Louis civil rights attorney said on Saturday as protesters gathered in a park before going to the mall.

"But this is a protest that addresses injustices not only happening here in St Louis but around the country."

The classic rock band U2 cancelled a concert scheduled for Saturday night in St Louis, and singer Ed Sheeran did the same for his show on Sunday, citing security concerns.

“Deeply saddened at what has happened in St Louis and having to cancel our show tonight,” U2 singer Bono said in a post on Instagram. “I found myself reading Dr King’s speech from the National Cathedral and asking myself is this 1968 or 2017?” 

The verdict and the subsequent protests come about three years after rioting broke out in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson when an unarmed teenager was shot dead by a white police officer. That killing touched off a nationwide soul-searching over law enforcement's use of force against African-Americans, the mentally ill and other groups.

After the ruling on Friday afternoon, around 600 chanting protesters marched from the courthouse through downtown St Louis, some of them holding "Black Lives Matter" signs.

Later, some of protesters broke windows at a library and two restaurants, and threw bricks and bottles at officers, who used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them. At one point, protesters also threw rocks and paint at the home of St Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, police said.

Following the violence, rock band U2 cancelled a concert scheduled for Saturday night in St Louis, citing safety concerns for fans who would have attended.

SHOOTING AFTER CHASE

Smith was shot five times in his car after attempting to elude Stockley and his partner, who had chased the suspect after an alleged drug deal, authorities said.

During the pursuit, Stockley could be heard saying on an internal police car video he was going to kill Smith, prosecutors said.

Stockley believed that Smith was armed, defense attorneys said, and a gun was found in the car. But prosecutors argued Stockley planted the weapon and the gun had only Stockley's DNA on it.

Stockley, who left the St Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 2013 and was arrested last year, had waived his right to a jury trial, allowing the judge to decide.

"This court, as a trier of fact, is simply not firmly convinced of defendant's guilt," Judge Wilson wrote in his ruling.

Smith's family settled a wrongful death lawsuit against the city for US$900,000 in 2013, according to Al Watkins, an attorney for Smith's fiancee, Christina Wilson.