ST. LOUIS (AP) — Protests turned violent for the second night on Saturday in reaction to the acquittal of a white former St. Louis police officer in the fatal shooting of a black man, as a small group of demonstrators refused to disperse, breaking windows and throwing objects at police in riot gear, who eventually moved in and made arrests.
The confrontation took place in the Delmar Loop of the St. Louis suburb of University City — known for concert venues, restaurants, shops and bars and including the famous Blueberry Hill where rock legend Chuck Berry played for many years. The area had been the scene of a tense but calm march earlier in the evening that ended with organizers calling for people to leave and reconvene Sunday afternoon.
But a small group of protesters refused to go. Police ordered them to disperse, saying the protest was unlawful. Hundreds of police in riot gear eventually moved in with armored vehicles. The demonstrators retreated down a street, breaking windows and throwing objects at police.
Several protesters were seen in handcuffs but the number of arrests was not immediately known. At least one demonstrator was seen being treated after he was hit with pepper spray.
The sudden eruption followed a day of non-violent demonstrations at suburban shopping malls and during the march in University City.
Demonstrators shouted slogans such as “black lives matter” and “it is our duty to fight for our freedom” as they marched through West County Center mall in the city of Des Peres, west of St. Louis, to decry a judge’s verdict Friday clearing ex-officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith. A group also demonstrated at Chesterfield Mall in the suburbs and at a regional food festival.
Organizers took their grievances to the suburbs Saturday to spread the impact of the protests beyond predominantly black neighborhoods to those that are mainly white.
“I don’t think racism is going to change in America until people get uncomfortable,” said Kayla Reed of the St. Louis Action Council, a protest organizer.
Susanna Prins, 27, a white woman from University City, carried a sign reading, “White silence is violence.”
“Not saying or doing anything makes you complicit in the brutalization of our friends and neighbors,” Prins said.
Smith’s death is just one of several high-profile U.S. cases in recent years in which a white officer killed a black suspect, including the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson that sparked months of angry and sometimes violent protests.
Federal prosecutors said Saturday they won’t open a new civil rights investigation into the killing. Justice Department spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam said the department decided in September not to prosecute, but didn’t announce it then to avoid affecting the judge’s decision.