Arrested protesters demonstrating against police brutality in St. Louis ironically found themselves the victims of police brutality as they were being taken into custody this week, according to reports. The protests were entering Day 5 on Tuesday and followed a judge’s acquittal on Friday of a White police officer charged with murdering a Black motorist in 2011.
The arrests, which in many cases were for a failure to disperse, may have been under false pretenses because police were ordering protesters to leave while blocking their way and preventing them from leaving. When the protesters had nowhere to go, police claimed they were not obeying orders and violently took them into custody, one man who was arrested told the Associated Press.
“They threw us on the ground, sprayed us, hit us, everything,” Sean Porter said. “It’s tragic.”
The tactic is known as “kettling,” according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
“It was the most brutal arrest I’ve ever experienced in my life,” activist Tony Rice told the Post-Dispatch. “I thought I was going to die.”
Police then began taunting protesters by chanting, “Whose Streets? Our Streets.” More than 120 people were arrested, ABC News reported.
Some of those arrested were not even protesting and instead were local residents and members of the media, including Post-Dispatch reporter Mike Faulk, who said he complied with police but was still pepper sprayed while an officer’s foot pushed his head onto the street.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson found Jason Stockley not guilty at the conclusion of the bench trial on Friday, sparking days of unrest that has unleashed damage across the city, including the mayor’s home and a variety of businesses. Prosecutors charged Stockley with the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith, who was fleeing police in a car before he was shot. In addition to murder, Stockley was accused of planting a gun at the scene and falsifying a subsequent police report. Wilson said his guilt was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt and acquitted him.