More protests break out in St Louis after acquittal in police shooting
ST LOUIS – Protesters marched through an upscale St Louis-area shopping mall on Saturday and the rock group U2 cancelled a concert hours after police clashed with a crowd outraged over the acquittal of a white former policeman accused of murdering a black man.
In a second day of protests over the judge’s ruling in the 2011 shooting death, hundreds of people chanted “Shut it down” and waved fists in the air as they snaked through the West County Center in the St Louis suburb of Des Peres.
Police officers were out in force but there were no skirmishes, unlike the previous night, when nine city officers and a state trooper were injured, and at least 23 people were taken into custody during the clashes.
“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.”
On Friday, 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.
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.
“Deeply saddened at what has happened in St Louis and having to cancel our show tonight,” the band’s singer, Bono, said in a statement posted on Instagram. “I found myself reading Dr King’s speech from the National Cathedral and asking myself is this 1968 or 2017?”
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, defence 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 $900 000 in 2013, according to Al Watkins, an attorney for Smith’s fiancée, Christina Wilson. (Reuters)