Peaceful protesters were highly critical of violence and vandalism taking place in St. Louis following a controversial court decision Friday.
Police arrested more than 80 people Sunday night after violence erupted following hours of peaceful protesting. It was the third straight night of violence after Friday’s court decision clearing former St. Louis Police officer Jason Stockley of murder charges against a black drug suspect.
Many storefront windows have been smashed and various other acts of vandalism have taken place since Friday’s acquittal of Stockley, who killed Anthony Lamar Smith after a high speed chase in 2011.
By Friday night, three dozen people had been arrested and at least ten officers injured in the violence that included several windows being broken at the house of Mayor Lyda Krewson.
Latasha Bell, who says she came out to peacefully march, was frustrated with people who confronted police officers that were blocking a street after an incident of vandalism Friday afternoon.
“They’re not doing it right in my opinion, no one that’s standing in the middle of the street” said Bell. “If the police are blocking the street, how are citizens supposed to act? If people understood how to protest, and if you’re protesting for the right reasons, there’s a way that you protest. Go to the sidewalk.”
During all three nights, destruction came after protest organizers dismissed crowds, asking them to go home until the next scheduled event.
Following various acts of violence Friday night in University City, Pastor Doug Hollis of Clergy United called for those who were not interested in peaceful protests to stay away. “We don’t want you coming out here tearing up, busting out windows,” Hollis told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “If you’re not coming to protest, please don’t come out here.”
At one point Friday afternoon, a protester climbed on top of a police SUV and smashed its windshield. At around 5:30, law enforcement declared the downtown protests to no longer be peaceful, and asked people to leave.
Bell, who said she was at the protests after the Michael Brown shooting, thought the incident with the police vehicle ruined an otherwise peaceful march. “I was there peacefully trying to protest,” said Bell. “I’m not a looter. Everybody don’t loot. But when you start doing things like this, it rages people.”
Saturday night, a protester who identified himself as T.K. told the Post-Dispatch that peaceful demonstrators had marched through an area before windows at several businesses were smashed. He said he feared the violence from “outside people” would be associated with his group that had gathered peacefully. He apologized to a business owner who was sweeping up broken glass.
Bell said Friday afternoon’s march included many people who had different motives than those protesting what they considered a bad court decision. “Everybody isn’t here to protest. Some people are here for the likes and the shares and the fame, the social media fame. That’s what a lot of people are here for.”
Around 1 a.m. Monday, Mayor Krewson and Interim Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole held a brief press conference, where Krewson noted daytime protests were calm while nighttime activity was destructive. She called the violence “unacceptable”. O’Toole said criminals were in jail and the city was safe.
Surveillance cameras caught an unmarked car backing through a crowd of protesters at a rapid pace Sunday afternoon. No injuries were reported from the incident.
After numerous arrests Saturday night, Governor Eric Greitens released a statement. “In the past, our leaders let people break windows, loot, start fires,” said Greitens. “They let them do it. Not this time. Tonight, the police arrested the vandals. At this moment, they’re all sitting in a jail cell. They’re gonna wake up and face felony charges. These aren’t protesters, these are criminals.”