Protesters marched Friday in St. Louis, Missouri, following the acquittal of a white police officer charged with murder last year in the shooting death of a 24-year-old black man.
Jason Stockley, who is no longer with the St. Louis Police Department, was charged in the fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith at close range after a car chase in December 2011. Prosecutors also alleged Stockley planted a gun on Smith’s body.
Preparing for a possible repeat of the violent demonstrations the St. Louis area saw after a racially charged police shooting in nearby Ferguson in 2014, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens on Thursday put the Missouri National Guard on standby. Some businesses closed their doors Friday, sending their employees home early. Some local schools sent students home early, too.
Demonstrators began gathering in the streets not long after the acquittal was announced Friday morning. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that hundreds of protesters were downtown by noon, where police in some cases blocked off traffic to let the marchers pass by.
By afternoon there were arrests as marchers tried to enter the on-ramp to an interstate highway and, elsewhere, blocked the way of a bus filled with police officers. Police used pepper spray on a few demonstrators who had hurled objects at them or would not move to let them pass.
No ‘seat at the table’
The acquittal left area blacks saddened and angry, St. Louis Alderman John Collins-Muhammad told the Post-Dispatch. “Until black people in this city get justice, until we get a seat at the table, there will be no peace in this city,” he said.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson released a statement Friday urging compassion among St. Louisans despite differing opinions on the acquittal. She noted, “We are all St. Louisans. We rise and fall together.”
Grieten, as well as Missouri’s Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill and Republican Senator Roy Blunt, all expressed hope that those angered by the acquittal could protest the verdict peacefully.
The Ferguson protests began in August 2014 and lasted two weeks, after a white police officer killed black teenager Michael Brown during an alleged convenience store robbery. In November, the decision not to indict the police officer sparked another week of protests, and the anniversary of the shooting in 2015 was the occasion of a third protest.
The incidents in Missouri were followed by police shootings and protests in a number of American cities, among them Baltimore, Maryland; Charlotte, North Carolina; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.