Noisy demonstrators marched through two malls in an upscale area of suburban St. Louis today to protest the acquittal of a white former St. Louis officer in the shooting of a black man, picking up after a night of mostly peaceful demonstrations that escalated into scattered acts of vandalism and violence.
A few hundred people walked through West County Centre in Des Peres, an upscale community west of St. Louis, loudly chanting slogans such as "black lives matter" and "it is our duty to fight for our freedom" to decry the judge's verdict Friday clearing ex-St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith.
A short time later, they demonstrated at Chesterfield Mall and at a festival featuring restaurant food from across the region. No arrests were reported at any of the demonstrations.
The mall protests followed raucous daytime marches in downtown St. Louis and through the city's posh Central West End area during the night.
Anticipating more demonstrations today, the band U2 cancelled its evening concert in St. Louis because the police department said it wouldn't be able to provide its standard protection for the event, organisers said.
Ed Sheeran also announced his sold-out concert at the Scottrade Centre on Sunday (local time) was cancelled for the same reason.
Protesters made it clear, they said, that the entire region, not just predominantly black areas of St. Louis, should feel uncomfortable with the verdict and its impact.
Protesters march through West County Mall in response to a not guilty verdict in the trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley.
Source: Associated Press
"I don't think racism is going to change in America until people get uncomfortable," said Kayla Reed of the St. Louis Action Council, a protest organiser.
Susanna Prins, a 27-year-old white woman from University City, another St. Louis suburb, carried a sign reading, "White silence is violence."
Smith's death is just one of several high-profile U.S. cases in recent years in which a white officer killed a black suspect, including the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson that sparked months of angry and sometimes violent protests.
The U.S. Department of Justice said today it will not open a new civil rights investigation into the case.
The head of the NAACP St. Louis had asked for a federal investigation.
Justice Department spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam said the department concluded in September 2016 that evidence did not support prosecution under criminal civil rights statutes, but did not announce it publicly until now to avoid impacting the state criminal case.
In advance of the Stockley verdict, Greitens met with Smith's fiancée, black state lawmakers, black St. Louis faith leaders and law enforcement in the hopes of projecting a shared message that peaceful protest would be tolerated but violence wouldn't.
Before the verdict, Greitens put the National Guard on standby, and some troops were deployed Friday night (local time) to guard fire stations and other "critical infrastructure" that Greitens didn't specify.
Police erected barricades around their own headquarters and the courthouse and dozens of officers in flak jackets and helmets who wielded batons and shields corralled demonstrators throughout the day and evening.