St. Louis police have arrested more than 300 protesters in the last 18 days, Al Jazeera reported. Civil rights groups and activists have accused the city’s police department of unlawful arrests and indiscriminate violence toward protesters, who began to assemble on September 15, after a White former officer, Jason Stockley, was found not guilty of murder for the death of Anthony Lamar Smith. Dashcam footage before the shooting showed Stockley saying, “”I’m going to kill this motherf***er, don’t you know it”.
Between September 15 and October 3, there were 307 arrests, police spokeswoman Schron Jackson told reporters. A few of those arrested said they weren’t even protesting, but instead were caught up in the department’s “kettling” tactics, which push protesters back into a cramped space so that mass arrests can be made without escape. American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed a lawsuit against the department over what it called “unlawful and unconstitutional actions” against demonstrators.
Reverend Starsky Wilson, the pastor of St. John’s Church in St. Louis, told reporters that police come prepared for nonexisting riots. On Tuesday, police showed up in riot gear to arrest protesters who had briefly blocked a highway. According to the news outlet, protesters chanted, “”We don’t see a riot here. Why are you in riot gear?”
“Police just determined that they were going to engage in mass arrests last night, and that’s exactly what they did,” Pastor Williams told Al Jazeera. “Unfortunately, in this community, we’ve seen such militarised policing that seeing riot gear is not uncommon any more.”