At least 80 arrests were made Sunday in St. Louis night following the third night of racial violence in the city. Hundreds of people were rioting because of Friday’s court decision that found Jason Stockley, a 36-year-old white police officer, not guilty in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith.
Many of the residents of the city were furious with the outcome of the trial, resulting daily protests that always turned violent. Both Friday and Saturday, the protesters got agitated and confronted the police officers, leading to the arrest of thirty people Saturday night. On Sunday, hundreds marched through the downtown streets of St. Louis. While the march remained peaceful in the early hours, the protest turned violent by nightfall after roughly 100 protesters became confrontational while marching towards the center of downtown.
The violent rioters reportedly damaged property and sprayed unknown substance on police officers. One cop suffered a leg injury and was taken to the hospital, the police said.
Arrests were made before midnight after rioters ignored calls to disperse. Officers wearing riot gear successfully cleared the streets of protesters. “Whose streets, our streets,” some cops shouted as they liberated the streets from violent agitators.
Organizers of the protest are fearing that violent marchers are giving a bad name to the cause, making it harder to spread the message.
Mayor Lyda Krewson told reporters at a late-night news conference that “the vast majority of protesters are non-violent,” and the violence was perpetrated by “a group of agitators,” Reuters reported.
Bruce Franks, Democratic State Representative, who participated in the march, agreed with the Mayor, saying people who engage in violence “are not protesters” but rather a distinctive group from the actual marchers.
Protest organizer Anthony Bell, on the other hand, said that while he believes non-violence is the best way to achieve change, but he does not condemn the violent protesters, citing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I do not say the demonstrators are wrong, but I believe peaceful demonstrations are the best,” he said.
Some protesters have defended themselves saying the police provoked the violence by showing up in riot gear and armored vehicles. Police said the measures were taken to ensure safety of their officers as the protesters throw things at them.