As everyone knows, the Thanksgiving weekend is a highlight for shoppers, as the unbeatable deals are super enticing! However, a group of activists in St. Louis decided to use that busy time to put a spotlight on more pressing issues.
According to the Washington Post, several protesters marched on the St. Louis Galleria shopping mall on Black Friday.
The mall protest was part of an ongoing series of protests and boycotts meant to draw attention to the acquittal of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley.
Stockley, who is white, killed Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, after a brief police chase in which Stockley is said to have stated he was "going to kill this motherf*cker, don't you know it."
Since Stockley was acquitted in September, protesters calling for justice for Smith have taken to the streets; several groups have set up boycotts of local businesses.
During the on-going protests, many critics, including the ACLU, have accused St. Louis' police department of being overly brutal in their crowd control tactics, overly quick to use chemical agents on protesters and also overly quick in arresting innocent bystanders.
During Black Friday's Galleria protest, seven people were arrested.
According to Pastor Darryl Gray, one of the leaders of the protest, the police on the scene were “overly aggressive" and "brutal."
Gray also claims that the protesters were beginning to leave when the arrests occurred, and that police officers swept up an holiday shopper in its arrests.
“They asked us to disperse and we were leaving,” Gray said. “We had a shopper not even in our crowd chanting in support of us. Police turned around and grabbed a black guy who was chanting.”
That shopper was forced to the ground by police, Gray said, and when fellow protest organizer Representative Bruce Franks tried to intervene on his behalf, the police tackled him, too. Although the police have not released arrest records for the Galleria round-up, Gray said both men were arrested.
Because of the protest, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that a nearby Walmart briefly closed. During the action, protesters shouted things like "No Justice, no profit," “Shut it down!” and “These killer cops have got to go!”
Lawsuits against the city of St. Louis and its police department are mounting; the city has, however, acknowledged that there might be a problem with how law enforcement has handled protests. It recently asked the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation on how police have handle the ongoing protests.