ST. LOUIS (Reuters) – Activists marched through two upscale shopping malls and into the streets of St. Louis on Saturday, marking a second day of demonstrations against the acquittal of a white police officer in the fatal shooting of a black man.
Several hundred people gathered near Washington University after dark to cap off a day of rallies across St. Louis and a nearby suburb that remained peaceful.
That contrasted with Friday night, when 10 police officers were hurt and 33 people arrested in demonstrations after Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson acquitted former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley, 36, of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith, 24.
“We don’t want to see property destruction or see people getting hurt,” Elad Gross, a 29-year-old St. Louis civil rights attorney, said as activists gathered in a park. “But this is a protest that addresses injustices not only happening here in St. Louis but around the country.”
The classic rock band U2 canceled a concert scheduled for Saturday night in St. Louis, and singer Ed Sheeran did the same for his show on Sunday, citing security concerns.
“Deeply saddened at what has happened in St. Louis and having to cancel our show tonight,” U2 singer Bono said in a post on Instagram. “I found myself reading Dr. King’s speech from the National Cathedral and asking myself is this 1968 or 2017?”
The latest verdict came about three years after rioting broke out in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson when a black teenager was shot dead by a white police officer. That incident touched off a nationwide soul-searching over law enforcement’s use of force against African-Americans, the mentally ill and other groups.
After Friday’s ruling, some 600 chanting protesters marched from the courthouse through downtown St. Louis, some of them holding “Black Lives Matter” signs.
Later, some broke windows at a library and two restaurants and threw bricks and bottles at officers, who used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the throng. At one point, demonstrators threw rocks and paint at the home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, police said.
Smith was shot five times in his car after attempting to elude Stockley and his partner, who had chased the suspect after an alleged drug deal, authorities said.
During the pursuit, Stockley could be heard saying on an internal police car video he was going to kill Smith, prosecutors said.
Stockley believed that Smith was armed, defense attorneys said, and a gun was found in the car. But prosecutors argued Stockley planted the weapon and the gun had only Stockley’s DNA on it.
Stockley, who left the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 2013 and was arrested last year, had waived his right to a jury trial, allowing the judge to decide.
“This court, as a trier of fact, is simply not firmly convinced of defendant’s guilt,” Judge Wilson wrote in his ruling.
Smith’s family settled a wrongful death lawsuit against the city for $900,000 in 2013, according to Al Watkins, an attorney for Smith’s fiancée, Christina Wilson.
(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Chris Kenning in Louisville, Kentucky; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Franklin Paul and David Gregorio)