Protesters gather in streets near St. Louis Galleria instead of Clayton as advertised | St. Louis Public Radio

Protesters gather in streets near St. Louis Galleria instead of Clayton as advertised

Sep 20, 2017

Updated at 7:45 p.m. with mall closure — The advertised gathering spot Wednesday for people wanting to voice their displeasure with the Jason Stockley verdict was downtown Clayton.

That was a decoy, as protesters converged on the St. Louis Galleria and blocked traffic on busy Brentwood Boulevard in Richmond Heights, about a mile away. Both Clayton and the mall were targeted because of protesters’ strategy to disrupt business as usual in affluent communities.

The mall closed during the protest. Sharon Grant, 45, of St. Louis, was shopping with her daughter when the protest started. Her daughter, Shay, persuaded Grant to join the protest.

“I’m ready to move anytime. I don’t care for St. Louis. St. Louis is a racist city,” Grant said.

A family watches protesters march down Brentwood Blvd. in Richmond Heights from the parking lot of Galleria mall, which closed early for the evening.
Credit Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The crowd stood motionless on Brentwood Boulevard for six minutes in reference to the six years between when Anthony Lamar Smith was killed and when ex-St. Louis officer Stockley went to trial.

“For Anthony Smith and Michael Brown, shut it down, shut it down,” the crowd said. They also listed the names of other black men who’d been killed by police in recent years.

The St. Louis County Police tweeted that demonstrators will be allowed to “peacefully assemble as we also keep roadways safe for everyone in the area.” But by 6:30 p.m., county police called it an “unlawful assembly," and at 6:35 p.m., organizers announced to the crowd that "everybody can head out."

Stockley, who is white, was acquitted Friday of first-degree murder in the 2011 fatal shooting of Smith, who was black. Prosecutors alleged Stockley executed Smith after a car chase and then planted a gun in his car. Stockley maintained that Smith reached for the gun and that he shot Smith in self-defense.

Clayton officials and business owners had been prepared for a large crowd, considering the recent demonstrations in downtown St. Louis, the Central West End and the Delmar Loop. Earlier in the day, County Executive Steve Stenger said in a statement that police were ready to “protect the public, the businesses of Clayton and any demonstrators planning to gather here in order to lawfully exercise their right of free speech.”

State police block protesters from continuing down Brentwood Blvd. toward Interstate 64 on Wednesday evening during a march in Richmond Heights.
Credit Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

“A lot of the messaging is ‘no justice, no profits,’ to come to areas where they may not feel the injustice of police brutality and bring it to them,” 21-year-old Alex Cohen said outside of the Galleria.

Updated at 6:15 p.m. with details — As protesters walked on Brentwood Boulevard, police in riot gear blocked the ramp to Interstate 64.   

The St. Louis County Police tweeted that demonstrators will be allowed to “peacefully assemble as we also keep roadways safe for everyone in the area.”

Updated at 5:55 p.m. with new information — From the St. Louis Galleria, protesters marched to and blocked Brentwood Boulevard on Wednesday night.  

They stood for six minutes, a reference to the six years between when Anthony Lamar Smith was killed and when ex-officer Jason Stockley went to trial.

“For Anthony Smith and Michael Brown, shut it down, shut it down,” the crowd said. They also listed the names of other black men and women who’d been killed by police in recent years, such as Sandra Bland.

A demonstrator leads a cheer as protesters block Brentwood Blvd. and shut down the Galleria mall Wednesday evening.
Credit Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5:45 p.m. with protest moving — For the second time in a week, people protesting the Jason Stockley verdict announced one location but moved to another. On Wednesday, that came in the form of having about 100 people gather in downtown Clayton, but holding the full demonstration at the St. Louis Galleria a couple of miles away.

Protesters went inside the mall for a few minutes, but mostly gathered outside the Cheesecake Factory to wait for instructions. There were only a few kids in the mix, and some people held “Black Lives Matter” signs.

Once the protest began, an organizer began call-and-response chants over a megaphone: "Shut it what?" "Shut it down," they said. Another one: "No justice." "No profits," the crowd said.

A protester bangs a drum while marching up Brentwood Blvd. during a protest Wednesday evening.
Credit Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Original story from Sept. 20

In their continuing effort to take their message about systemic injustice to areas where many people of means live and work, protesters arrived Wednesday afternoon in downtown Clayton.

A sign taped to the door at a Starbucks in Clayton indicated the business would close early on Wednesday ahead of protests planned in the area for 5 p.m.
Credit Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The crowd gathered in Shaw Park to decry a judge’s decision last week to find former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley not guilty of murder in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith. It’s also part of their strategy to disrupt business as usual in affluent communities.

Clayton officials and business owners have been preparing for the protesters, who in recent days held demonstrations in downtown St. Louis, the Central West End and the Delmar Loop.

Some Clayton businesses, including the Starbucks at Forsyth Boulevard and Central Avenue, put up handwritten signs announcing they would close early. Managers at Barcelona's Tapas Restaurant on Central Avenue pulled some things off the sidewalk but left tables and chairs and stayed open, hoping for a peaceful gathering.

Richard Baldwin, a financial planner, said members of another wealth management company he works with left at 3:30 p.m. But Baldwin is "not the type that fears that kind of thing," he said, and would probably stay in Clayton. "But I'll stay indoors."

St. Louis County’s Clayton offices closed at 3 p.m. Officials announced that the Shaw Park Tennis Center would close at 3:30 p.m., the Center of Clayton recreation center would close at 4:30 p.m. and that Shaw Park Pool would not open. Officials also canceled the scheduled 6 p.m. session of the city’s municipal court.

Earlier today, County Executive Steve Stenger on the Clayton said in a statement that police were ready to “protect the public, the businesses of Clayton and any demonstrators planning to gather here in order to lawfully exercise their right of free speech.”

By 3 p.m., Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers were stationed at the nearby on-ramps to Interstate 270.

Stenger said he appreciates and respects the way thousands have protested peacefully for social justice. But he said County Police Chief Jon Belmar and his staff have a plan to protect the public and city businesses.

“As we saw on some nights, it only takes a small, hostile group to hijack a peaceful protest and cause injury and damage,” Stenger said.

Stockley, a former St. Louis officer who is white, was acquitted Friday of first-degree murder in the 2011 fatal shooting of Smith, who was black. Prosecutors alleged Stockley executed Smith after a car chase and then planted a gun in his car. Stockley maintained that Smith reached for the gun and that he shot Smith in self-defense.

Correction: Some photo captions incorrectly stated where the protest took place. St. Louis Galleria mall, where the demonstration happened, is in Richmond Heights, not Clayton.

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