Protests over St Louis police shooting turn violent for third day
Protesters hurled debris at police in St Louis, Missouri Sunday and smashed store windows as demonstrations over the acquittal of a former police officer in the shooting death of a black man turned violent for a third straight day.
“Agitators are breaking multiple windows at Olive & 10th. Officers are heading to scene,” said on its Twitter account.
Hundreds of protesters earlier staged a “die in” outside a police headquarters and marched through St Louis before returning to the headquarters building.
Peaceful demonstrations had turned violent on the two previous nights, with the city on edge since Friday’s acquittal of white former police officer Jason Stockley.
The case — the latest high-profile incident of police using violence against a black suspect — has touched a nerve in St Louis, where racial tensions were heightened by the 2014 killing of a black man, Michael Brown, in the suburb of Ferguson by a white police officer.
Rock giants U2 and pop star Ed Sheeran called off scheduled weekend concerts in St. Louis, saying police had advised them that security could not be assured.
The first sign of violence after Sunday’s peaceful protest was a police tweet that a group was “throwing debris” at officers following a traffic stop near the police headquarters.
“If group cannot be peaceful they will be ordered to leave,” the tweet said.
St Louis Post-Dispatch reporters on the scene reported soon after that vandals were breaking store windows, targeting small businesses and a restaurant.
“Protest is a mess now. People running everywhere, bike cops in pursuit,” tweeted Mike Faulk, a Post-Dispatch journalist on the scene.
At least 35 people have been arrested since Friday, and 11 police officers were reported to have been injured in the clashes with stone-throwing protesters.
Store windows were smashed by vandals during the worst of the violence on Friday night.
– 2011 shooting –
Stockley shot to death Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, in 2011 after a car chase that followed an attempt to arrest Smith for a suspected drug deal.
Stockley maintained he shot Smith in self-defense, but he was caught on an in-car camera video telling his partner, Brian Bianchi, “Going to kill this (expletive), don’t you know it.”
Prosecutors brought first degree murder charges in 2016, alleging that Stockley’s comments showed premeditation and that he had planted a silver revolver in Smith’s car.
But Judge Timothy Wilson acquitted Stockley, finding that the evidence on the gun, as well as the officer’s videotaped comment, provided insufficient grounds to convict.
Marching through two shopping malls on Saturday, protesters chanted, “The whole damn system is guilty as hell.”
“We will not tolerate violence,” Acting Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole told reporters.
– Cancellations –
The U2 and Ed Sheeran concerts were among several events canceled over the tense weekend.
Others included a St. Louis Symphony Orchestra concert and a “Shakespeare in the Streets” event.
Entertainment firm Live Nation and U2 jointly announced the cancellation of that group’s scheduled Saturday show in a statement citing concerns about fans’ security.
“We have been informed by the St. Louis Police Department that they are not in a position to provide the standard protection for our audience as would be expected,” they said.
“We cannot in good conscience risk our fans’ safety.”
U2 superstar Bono later posted on Instagram that he was “deeply saddened at what has happened in St. Louis” and had asked himself, “Is this 1968 or 2017?”
And Briton Sheeran, in announcing that he was pulling the plug on a show set for Sunday, said he hoped to return as soon as possible.
– ‘I’m not the guy’ –
In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Stockley said he understood how the video might look bad to investigators and the public.
“I understand what the family is going through, and I know everyone wants someone to blame,” he said, “but I’m just not the guy.”
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