The protests in St. Louis over the acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley in the killing of Anthony Lamar Smith continued this week. Stockley was cleared of both murder and planting a gun at the scene of the death in mid-September.
On Tuesday evening, hundreds of protesters demanding justice marched to St. Louis' Interstate 64 and blocked traffic.
Police arrested 143 people in connection with the protest, according to the Associated Press.
Demonstrators have driven onto EB I-64 from Kingshighway & many have exited their vehicles. I-64 is shut down in the area. #STLVerdict— St. Louis, MO Police (@SLMPD) October 4, 2017
Demonstrators blocking motorists inside vehicles & some are marching on I-64. Arrests will be made if they do not disperse. #STLverdict— St. Louis, MO Police (@SLMPD) October 4, 2017
At this time, it isn't clear what charges the arrested protesters will face, but the Circuit Attorney’s office noted that they will likely to be charged in municipal court.
Police and protester relations have been super tense over the last few weeks. The city is facing two lawsuits related to overaggressive policing, and police officers have been criticized for arresting people while shouting, "Whose streets? Our streets!"
According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the protesters at the most recent march had chants of their own, shouting things at the militarized police force like “We don’t see a riot here. Why are you in riot gear?” and “Touch one, touch all.”
This most recent police action marks the second mass arrest of the Smith protests. The first triggered one of the aforementioned lawsuits.
The ACLU of Missouri filed that suit, alleging unlawful behavior during the September 17 mass arrest of 120 people. On that day, police officers used a controversial technique known as “kettling,” in which lines of officers box protesters into a limited area to contain them.
The lawsuit claims that police used unnecessarily heavy-handed tactics such as tear gas and pepper spray, that officers arrested innocent bystanders and journalists and that officers taunted some of the arrested people.
We getting locked up!— Bruce Franks Jr (@brucefranksjr) October 4, 2017
“They kettled us again,” said Reverend Darryl Gray, who was one of the 143 people arrested in this week's round-up. He stressed that the protest was a peaceful one, and that when officers began making arrests, “No one resisted.”
The police tell a different story, claiming that protesters threw rocks and other items at them, and that they sprayed unknown substances and broke shop windows.
As we reported last week, St. Louis has asked for an independent federal investigation into the behavior and tactics of its force during these protests. Now, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner is requesting $1.3 million be given to the city's board of aldermen so that it can do its own investigation into police actions.
“Both the community and police deserve an objective, fair and transparent investigation, and it is no longer acceptable for police to be essentially investigating themselves,” Gardner said.