—Reporting by Tim Lampley
St. Louis protests are hurting local shops and restaurants and could have a large impact on the city’s economy as a whole.
Dozens of scheduled events have been canceled due to the protests that started after a judge acquitted white police officer Jason Stockley in the 2011 murder of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith.
Aside from the U2 and Ed Sheeran concerts that were cancelled over the weekend, Friday’s ruling closed large corporate offices, shut down bars, and left residents weary about attending downtown events. Comedy shows scheduled for weekend performances at the Loop area venues of the Pageant and Delmar Hall were postponed.
Much like the 2014 uprising in nearby Ferguson, Mo., protests during the day have been largely peaceful. At 7 a.m. Monday, a racially mixed crowd of demonstrators locked arms and marched quietly to the St. Louis courthouse dispersing only to allow an emergency vehicle to pass through. Actor Nick Cannon marched with crowds on Saturday.
But as night fell, tension between authorities and protesters seemed to boil over into a melee that led to bottles and bricks being hurled at officers, and dozens of windows busted out in the Delmar Loop, a posh neighborhood just outside St. Louis city. On Friday, Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home was vandalized and police responded by blocking off streets and deploying tear gas and pepper spray in crowds that would not disperse.
Police arrested nearly 150 people during four straight nights of clashes with demonstrators. Most of the arrests were made Sunday night as police reportedly used a tactic called “kettling” to box demonstrators in at an intersection and arrest them for failing to disperse.
To show solidarity with fellow protesters who were still locked up, hundreds gathered at the Justice Center on Monday night chanting “free our people.” Smith’s mother was in the crowd.
Fareed Alston, 28, and Fudail McCain, 23, were among those arrested and charged with failure to disperse. They described what happened after police gave a barely audible warning.
“We got cornered in by four walls of police and as we tried to escape,” said Alston. “We were pushed back into the circle with pepper spray and I got pushed with a stick, pushed with riot gear.”
Fudail added that “people next to me were getting stomped. People next to me were getting maced.”
Protesters also allege some officers shouted “Whose streets? Our streets!” after arrests were made, a call-and-response chant used by the demonstrators themselves.
Mayor Krewson will speak will residents in person at a town hall meeting scheduled for tonight, in an effort to diffuse tensions.