By Zachary Sobol
As of Monday, Oct. 2, protests in St. Louis have lasted 17 consecutive days, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Protesters first took to the streets on Sept. 15, after an ex-police officer, Jason Stockley, was not found guilty of the first-degree murder of Anthony Lamar Smith, a 24-year-old black man who was shot by police in 2011, according to Rolling Stone.
Stockley and his partner stopped Smith and another man for suspicion of drug dealing on Dec. 20, 2011, according to Rolling Stone.
“We’re going to kill this motherfucker, don’t you know it,” Stockley said during the ensuing car chase caught by the dashboard camera.
Once the chase ended, Stockley approached the driver-side window of Smith’s vehicle with his gun drawn. Stockley then strongly gestured in front of the window, before pulling away from the window to unleash several gunshots into the car.
Stockley claimed in his testimony that he believed Smith had turned to his right to grab a gun, and that he fired in defense, according to Rolling Stone.
Protests began peacefully and silently on Sept. 18, CNN reported.
“We want to achieve one goal — an end to the disparate killings of black citizens at the hands of police,” Bryan McClellan, a demonstrator, said on Sept. 18 according to CNN.
The peace broke by late evening that day. Protesters started to use pieces of broken concrete flowers pots as projectiles against police officers, according to CNN. Over 120 protesters were arrested for disorderly conduct that night.
“I’m proud to tell you the city of St. Louis is safe and the police owned tonight,” said Acting Police Commissioner Lt. Col. Lawrence O’Toole the following day, according to Rolling Stone.
Rolling Stone also reported that in a separate statement, O’Toole said, “We’re in control. This is our city and we’re going to protect it.”
As law enforcement was dealing with the protesters on Sunday night, David Carson, a photographer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, caught the police officers echoing a similar message, according to CNN.
“Whose streets? Our streets!” officers chanted while making arrests, CNN reported.
The Washington Post reported that John Ziegler, an activist and videographer who was at the protests, saw police officers taking pictures of arrestees and saying things including “They’re communists and socialists” and “They’re here to destroy America.”
Citizens made hundreds of recommendations and proposals to the state, asking it to address how the police can be fairer. However, no requests have been met, according to The Washington Post.
Since the death of Michael Brown in 2014, Kayla Reed, a local activist with the St. Louis Action Council, said there has not been enough action taken by city officials to bridge the racial divide in St. Louis, according to The Washington Post.
“I think what we are seeing is a real reluctance to listen to the community, to step into leadership about ushering in a new era of progress,” Reed said to The Washington Post. “And that, plus continued repression and brutality at the hands of the police, have ignited once again, feelings like, ‘We have to take to the streets, we have to shut things down, we have to show we’re not going anywhere.’”