About 50 protesters who marched to St. Louis City Hall Wednesday were greeted with locked metal grilles barring the doors. For approximately two hours, employees were unable to go in or out, and residents hoping to pick up paperwork were turned away.
Protesters briefly blocked traffic at the intersection of Tucker Blvd. and Market St., before they were ordered to the sidewalk by police. Then, about 25 laid down in front of City Hall for a ‘die in,’ while others sat nearby.
Mayor Francis Slay said he chose to order the doors locked because of the people who were in the crowd.
“Police intelligence told me that some of the same members who assaulted a law enforcement officer last time they were here and damaged city property were among the group. We wanted to make sure we keep our employees safe,” Slay said.
A spokesperson for the city said the damage to City Hall from the previous protest included a broken door.
Protest organizers said their action Wednesday was to call for all criminal charges related to protests over the past four months to be dropped. Through a megaphone, protester Derek Laney said police have unfairly targeted protest leaders and exaggerated the details of what happened.
“What they want to do, is they want to intimidate us. They want to smear our name. They want to continue a narrative that black people, black men especially, are violent,” Laney said.
At an earlier protest at City Hall, while participating in a ‘die-in’ to block traffic, Laney was arrested and charged with 3rd degree assault of a police officer. He denies that he assaulted anyone.
“I’m not even going to try and explain how I didn’t assault him. It’s a lie that’s made up,” Laney said.
A small group of City Hall employees and residents who had gone to City Hall for business gathered outside the doors, waiting to see when the doors would re-open.
Edward Thirdkill had driven from Earth City after a 12-hour work shift to pick up a copy of his marriage license, unaware that a protest was going on.
“Everybody has a right to do what they want to do,” Thirdkill said, chuckling at the timing. “This just caught me off guard.”
Protesters dispersed around 2:30 p.m., and city officials said the doors were re-opened by 3 p.m.