More protests set after quiet night in St. Louis

Protesters march in silence down Market Street in St. Louis on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, in response to a not guilty verdict in the trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley. Stockley was acquitted on Friday in the 2011 killing of a black man following a high-speed chase. (Cristina Fletes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

ST. LOUIS — Protesters chanting “free our people” gathered outside the jail in downtown St. Louis for more than two hours to show solidarity with those who remain behind bars, but there was no repeat of the vandalism that occurred over the weekend.

Demonstrators outside the jail Monday night criticized authorities for keeping some of those arrested in jail nearly 24 hours after they were taken into custody. Police said more than 120 people were arrested during Sunday’s protests over the acquittal of a white former police officer in the killing of a black suspect.

Some of those jailed were released Monday evening before organizers announced an end to the demonstration and told people to go home. Organizers said protests will resume today, but they gave no details.

Monday was the fourth day of protests.

Three days of peaceful protests and three nights of vandalism followed Friday’s announcement that a judge found ex-officer Jason Stockley not guilty in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith.

Smith’s mother, Anne Smith, was among those gathered outside the downtown jail Monday.

Hundreds of riot police mobilized downtown late Sunday, arresting more than 80 people at one intersection who police said didn’t follow orders to disperse. Earlier, police had responded to reports of property damage and vandalism.

But Sean Porter, 25, of St. Louis, was among those arrested at the intersection. He said that they could not follow orders to disperse because police had them blocked in.

“They threw us on the ground, sprayed us, hit us, everything. It’s tragic,” said Porter, who was released from jail Monday evening. He was charged with failure to disperse.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said reporter Mike Faulk, who was on the street covering the protests, had an experience similar to the one Porter described.

Police blocked all four sides of the intersection. Faulk heard the police command to move back, but he had nowhere to go, the newspaper reported. Multiple officers knocked Faulk down, he told the Post-Dispatch, and pinned his limbs to the ground. A foot pushed his head into the pavement and he was squirted with pepper spray after he was subdued, he said.

Protesters marched through St. Louis’ posh Central West End and the trendy Delmar Loop area of nearby University City on Friday and Saturday. Protesters also marched through two shopping malls in a wealthy area of St. Louis County.

On Sunday, more than 1,000 people had gathered at police headquarters and then marched without trouble through downtown St. Louis. By nightfall, most had gone home.

But the 100 or so people who remained grew increasingly agitated as they marched back toward downtown. Along the way, they knocked over planters, broke windows at a few shops and hotels, and scattered plastic chairs at an outdoor venue.

One officer suffered a leg injury and was taken to a hospital.

Buses then brought in additional officers in riot gear and police made arrests and seized at least five weapons, according to Interim Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole. Later, officers in riot gear gathered alongside a city boulevard chanting “whose street, our street” — a common refrain used by the protesters — after clearing the street of demonstrators and onlookers.

Mayor Lyda Krewson said at a Monday news conference that “the days have been calm and the nights have been destructive” and that “destruction cannot be tolerated.”

Early Monday, more than 150 protesters marched arm-in-arm, some carrying signs, to city hall. Police turned traffic away as the marchers blocked a busy St. Louis street during the rush hour crush.