Staff Writers, CNN, September 18, 2017
Protesters angry over the acquittal of St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, a white cop acquitted of murder in the shooting death of a black man, attacked police, broke windows and flipped over trash cans Sunday night. More than 80 people were arrested, authorities said.
The demonstrations began peacefully, but erupted in violence after nightfall, officials said. Amid the melees that ensued, some protesters broke concrete flower pots and used the broken pieces as projectiles.
Sunday’s vandalism unfolded in a “concentrated area,” said acting Police Commissioner Larry O’Toole. Police arrested demonstrators after the violence, which included assaults and chemical attacks on officers, police said.
“Some criminals assaulted law enforcement officers and threw chemicals and rocks at them.”
“All will be returned to duty soon,” O’Toole said. “We’re in control. This is our city, and we’re going to protect it.”
Police made the latter sentiment clear, according to multiple reports, including that of a St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer, which said that officers began chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!” after making arrests on Tucker Boulevard.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said the majority of protesters were not violent and blamed the vandalism on agitators.
Stockley said Smith backed into their police SUV twice in an apparent attempt to harm them.
Smith sped away, knocking Stockley sideways, and Stockley fired at the vehicle, before Bianchi and Stockley pursued Smith at speeds up to 80 mph.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson said the prosecution’s argument was “not supported by the evidence.” The gun was too large, Wilson said, for Stockley to hide it from the cameras at the scene.
On Friday some protesters locked arms and prayed together, but within hours others smashed the windshield of a police vehicle and threw water bottles, rocks and bricks at law enforcement.
St. Louis police said the demonstrators later threw rocks at the mayor’s home and that 11 law enforcement officers had been injured.
At least 33 people were arrested, according to a police tweet. Video footage showed officers using tear gas to disperse the crowds after police said the protests were considered an unlawful assembly. O’Toole said his officers used pepper balls.
On Saturday, peaceful protests also heated up with a group of protesters throwing bricks, rocks and projectiles with paint at police as officers tried to disperse the crowds. Nine people were arrested.
Demonstrators briefly invaded two area malls over the weekend. Many chanted, “Black lives matter,” video on social media shows.
Stockley left the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in August 2013. Later that year, the St. Louis police board settled a wrongful death suit with Smith’s survivors for $900,000.
State and federal authorities did not initially prosecute Stockley. Then-St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce later charged him with first-degree murder in May 2016, citing new evidence.
After Friday’s ruling, Smith’s family said they believed the judge had made the wrong decision and they would look at taking other legal steps.