A St. Louis Board of Aldermen committee has taken the first step to hear testimony from interim Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole.
Members of the board’s public safety committee on Tuesday approved a resolution sponsored by Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward. Tyus wants to question O’Toole about police department practices in response to protesters. The move comes after protests over former St. Louis Police officer Jason Stockley’s acquittal of first-degree murder in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith.
Committee members approved Tyus’ resolution by 7-1 vote, but it still needs approval from the full Board of Aldermen.
Before voting for the measure, aldermen heard testimony from elected officials and St. Louis residents who have taken part in the Stockley protests.
Alderwoman Megan Green, D-15th Ward, told committee members that officers deployed tear gas without warning during a protest in the Central West end on Sept. 15, the day Stockley was acquitted.
“That was an issue of not having warning before any kind of chemical agent was dispersed, which was in violation of a temporary restraining order that we have had in place in the city stemming back to 2014 when MoKabe’s Coffee Shop … was tear-gassed,” Green said.
Mackenzie Marks said she has been hit with pepper spray multiple times and arrested during the protests. She said she supports Tyus’ resolution.
“This past Tuesday, a week ago today, I was also arrested for peacefully protesting while standing on a sidewalk,” Marks said. “Upon my arrest I was misgendered and then mocked after correcting the officer.” Marks identifies as female.
State Rep. Bruce Franks, D-St. Louis, has attended many of the recent protests and is upset with the response to protesters by police officers.
He said that despite O’Toole not being present at protests where abuses of power are taking place, “we see him praise what's being done. We see him praise how they’re handling the protestors.”
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