St. Louis has seen several consecutive days of protesting following the “not guilty” verdict in the trial of ex-police officer Jason Stockley, who shot Anthony Lamar Smith five times at point blank and then planted evidence in Smith’s car. As the protests have continued, the number of arrests have climbed, with the St. Louis Police Department being accused of using brutal tactics to suppress the protestors. And this is on top of police officers reportedly co-opting a Black Lives Matter slogan and chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!” while making arrests.
According to The St. Louis-Dispatch, police deployed a technique called kettling Sunday night in order to box in a group of protestors after some property was damaged. However, some of the people caught up in the situation say the police ended up using excessive force and chemical spray on those who were boxed in, including on bystanders watching the protests and journalists:
The police lines moved forward, trapping dozens of people — protesters, journalists, area residents and observers alike. Multiple officers knocked [St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Mike] Faulk down, he said, and pinned his limbs to the ground. A firm foot pushed his head into the pavement. Once he was subdued, he recalled, an officer squirted pepper spray in his face.
Another witness says that he saw police “hit and rough house” those who did not put their hands behind their backs while performing a sweep of protesters. “Most of the people who didn’t have their hands behind their backs were making sure they weren’t pepper sprayed in the face,” he said.
Tony Rothert, legal director of the American Civil Liberties of Missouri, said kettling is controversial because it is known to sweep up “journalists, legal observers and innocent bystanders” leading to “constitutional violations.” He said his group was considering whether litigation would be necessary “to bring police in line with the Constitution.”
In related news, President Trump recently signed an executive order that lifts the Obama-era ban on police acquiring excess military equipment.
(Via St. Louis Post-Dispatch)