ST. LOUIS (AP) — Protesters took to the streets again Wednesday in the St. Louis area to demonstrate against a judge’s recent acquittal of a white former police officer who fatally shot a black suspect in 2011.
The demonstration was the latest part of an effort by protesters to disrupt business as a way to draw attention to their cause. It had been announced for Shaw Park in the suburb of Clayton, Missouri, and about 100 people gathered there. They quickly left, though, and a larger group met up near the St. Louis Galleria in nearby Richmond Heights, where they blocked traffic.
Demonstrators marched and chanted near the upscale shopping mall and briefly moved toward an interstate on-ramp, but police blocked the entrance and pushed the protesters back.
“No justice, no profits,” the marchers chanted. “Whose streets? Our streets!”
St. Louis County police soon announced the demonstration had become an unlawful assembly and ordered protesters to leave an area near the mall, saying anyone who didn’t go could be arrested. Protest organizers urged the demonstrators to leave and most complied.
In the wake of a judge’s acquittal last week of Jason Stockley, who was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith, protesters have targeted affluent areas in and around St. Louis and places known to be economic drivers.
Organizers announced on Facebook that another demonstration is scheduled Thursday evening in downtown St. Louis.
The protests have been largely nonviolent, but there was vandalism over the weekend after peaceful organized protests ended.
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said in a statement that the county’s police force was ready to protect the public, businesses and “any demonstrators planning to gather here in order to lawfully exercise their right of free speech.”
Meanwhile, police in Wisconsin are trying to find whoever spray-painted a message on the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial calling for justice for Smith. The Wisconsin Department of Justice said in a news release that “#Justice4AnthonySmith” was spray-painted Saturday on the memorial outside the state Capitol in Madison.
And St. Louis city police were investigating whether an officer posted a meme equating the Black Lives Matter movement with domestic terrorism in response to a Facebook post by a woman who was protesting Stockley’s acquittal.
Lisa Clancy, of St. Louis, said Wednesday that the meme was among numerous “hateful” responses she received to her post about participating in a Friday night protest in the city’s trendy Central West End district. She said a Google search suggested that the person posting the meme could be an officer, prompting her to report it to police.
The meme shows a crowd led by people holding a Black Lives Matter banner, describing the group as “The Klan with a tan” and “domestic terrorists.” Clancy said she’s particularly concerned because the meme depicts a peaceful crowd exercising its free speech rights.
“To me, it’s an indication that there is some very deeply embedded racism in that institution,” she said. Later, she added, “I felt like whoever posted that has a fundamental misunderstanding of constitutional rights.”
The police department on Wednesday only would say that its investigation into the matter is ongoing.
At a news conference Tuesday, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said she heard about the post but had not seen it.
“First of all, I certainly disagree with that comment,” Krewson said of the meme.
Clancy, a 32-year-old Washington University graduate who advises nonprofit groups and is white, said she joined Friday’s protest in St. Louis after hearing calls from activists for white residents to join black residents. She also said she wants her 1-year-old son “to live in a world where there’s justice for everyone.”
Hanna reported from Topeka, Kansas.