By Brandie Piper & Sam Clancy
UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo.— Demonstrators protesting the acquittal of a white former police officer in the killing of a black man in 2011 marched through West County Mall Saturday afternoon chanting “Black live matter!” and “No justice, no peace!”
The demonstrations in this St. Louis suburb followed a night of protests that at times turned violent. A number of businesses were vandalized and 32 people were arrested.
A spokesperson for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement that nine St. Louis officers, one Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper, and one St. Louis County officer were injured Friday night. One of the city officers was hit with a brick. O’Toole said the injuries to St. Louis police officers include a possible broken jaw and a dislocated shoulder.
The band U2 canceled its Saturday night concert in St. Louis because the police department said it wouldn’t be able to provide its standard protection for the event, organizers said.
For weeks, activists had been threatening civil disobedience if Jason Stockley, a former St.Louis Metropolitan police officer, were acquitted of murder for killing Anthony Lamar Smith following a high-seed chase.
Stockley was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in May 2016, about 4 1/2 years after shooting and killing Smith on Dec. 11, 2011. Stockley opted for a bench trial – a trial without a jury – before veteran Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson.
On Friday, Wilson made his decision, finding Stockley not guilty on both counts.
Wary of the protests that broke out in 2014 in nearby Ferguson over the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer, authorities took precautions in St. Louis. Barricades were erected around police headquarters and the courthouse, among other sites, in anticipation of the verdict.
Demonstrators went to the mall Saturday after gathering in Heman Park to discuss their next move,
“Economically, we’ve been excluded,” one demonstrator, Amir Bradley, told KSDK-TV. “There’s only two things this system understands: Money and eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth. The second, we’re not engaged in, so we have to affect this system Economically. Today, we are going to shut down a mall.”
In St.Louis, protests late Friday were mostly peaceful until demonstrators spattered red paint on St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home and broke a window, prompting riot police to lob tear gas to disperse crowds.
On Friday, following the verdict, Al Watkins, attorney for Smith’s fiancée and daughter, said the family is devastated and appalled by the judge’s ruling. Watkins said he and the family take particular issue with a statement in the ruling they consider to be prejudicial: “Finally, the Court observes, based on its nearly thirty years on the bench, that an urban heroin dealer not in possession of a firearm would be an anomaly.”
“We all know what ‘urban’ means. Urban means ‘black.’ I find that to be offensive,” Watkins said. “I find that to be demonstrative of a judge who thinks that those who are reading this verdict are morons.”
Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner said she was disappointed by the judge’s decision because prosecutors presented sufficient evidence of guilt. Despite the ruling, Gardner says nothing would stop her from continuing to provide every person with a fair and impartial legal process.
“This verdict will not stop me,” Gardner said.