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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Chris Sommers Responds After Police Union Puts Him — and Pi Pizzeria — on Blast

Posted By on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 9:31 AM

Chris Sommers offers water to protesters on Friday, September 15, as they march through the Central West End. - PHOTO BY DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Chris Sommers offers water to protesters on Friday, September 15, as they march through the Central West End.

On Friday, Pi Pizzeria was gassed by St. Louis police officers who were marching through the neighborhood after protests took an ugly turn a bit further west. Owner Chris Sommers was there.

Yesterday, the pro-police group Blue Lives Matters put Sommers on blast for his response — and the union representing St. Louis County police officers shared the link and echoed the call on its Facebook page. "There are reports of people calling the restaurants tying up their phone lines expressing their feelings about the owners anti-police comments. We have been busy protecting everyone's free speech during the demonstrations. Here are the numbers if you feel like your freedom of speech needs a little exercise," the police union posted, sharing numbers for Pi locations.

Sommers posted this in response on his Facebook page. We are publishing it here with his permission.

On Friday night, at approximately 11:15pm, the SLMPD shot at me and gassed me. They did this, ostensibly, because I was screaming at them from across an empty street to stop terrorizing my dinner guests and team who were dining peacefully on a corner devoid of protestors or agitators.

Earlier that night, around 8:30 p.m., I was sitting at home, monitoring the protests on Twitter. When it appeared they were heading north, I immediately jumped in my car and called our manager, asking him to get waters ready to hand out to all police and protestors as they walked by, in an attempt to calm nerves and prevent damage to my building. We did this for likely an hour, until all signs of a protest had moved on. We made a few friends along the way, and saw many of our amazing guests in the peaceful protest.

After the peaceful protest had left our block, I sat for an hour on corner sidewalk table with my friend Steve and two of his Jesuit priest friends. When it appeared that everything had been calm for a while, and guests had begun returning to eat on our patio, I decided it was safe to leave my team and my business to join my family at home.

Police in the Central West End on Friday night. - PHOTO BY DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Police in the Central West End on Friday night.

As I drove past Euclid on my way home, I looked south and saw a wall of militarized police marching in line to our corner. It was immediately alarming because they were not pushing any protestors or clearing anyone from the street. They were approaching an empty block, marching by themselves with gas masks, guns and shields. I immediately stopped my car and ran back to my restaurant, still baffled why they were coming our way. When they reached the corner, at least one of them began shooting indiscriminately, at absolutely no one. Some of the shots (pepper pellets, I later learned) were directed towards the air, so it appears they were just trying to intimidate. But whom? The only people around were guests and neighbors and a few people with cameras. I had previously pulled out my phone and got all of this on tape.

As they continued to shoot, I lost my shit and screamed at them for terrorizing our guests and hiding behind their shields and guns when there were zero agitators on our corner. Cars were driving freely, unimpeded by anyone blocking the street. If you watch my video, you'll see that even some of the cops have no idea why they marched where they did. But apparently cops can do no wrong. (The ACLU disagrees, however, and after viewing my video, has asked me to testify before a federal judge this week.) I used lots of expletives at these little men and women hiding behind shields with guns, terrorizing my guests who pay their salaries. The ACLU told me their aggression against my language makes their crime even more egregious.

See also: ACLU Files Suit Against St. Louis, Alleging Civil Rights Violations Against Protesters

After they threw a tear gas canister at me (again, on video), a guy next to me picked it up and threw it back at them, either to get it away from him and others at Pi, or because he felt violated and wanted to return the poison. They certainly didn't like that, and finally crossed the street, rushing at me as I ran into my restaurant and barely got the door closed before they could break in. Yes, I had to lock down my restaurant for the first time from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. I then had to close the restaurant, buy dinner for remaining guests and ensure that my team, who were now all terrified from the gas and rush by the police, had a safe ride home. I repeat, we only closed our restaurant this weekend out of fear of police, not protestors or the shitheads vandalizing.

Since I began posting my experience and videos on social media, and calling out the insane, illegal behavior by the police, I have become public enemy No. 1 to every "Blue Lives Matter" fanboy. They have been terrorizing my teams on the phone (after the union posted all of our phone numbers on Facebook), threatening me and my businesses, and falsely claiming my businesses were protected by the police. It was my team and I who kept our business safe that night, though only barely from the police department itself. These people are now calling for our windows to be broken, and based on their words, I don't doubt they will do it themselves.

What pains me the most about this is how much support I have given to the police since I opened my business. Cops eat either for free or 50 percent off every time they dine with us in uniform. I donate to all of their non-profits and events, any time they ask. But that doesn't matter. No good deed goes unpunished.

The Blue Lives Matter (Only) people who are threatening me and my business use phrases like "Black Lives Don't Matter" in their messages. They all have Trump and "Make America Great Again" tags in their profiles. Oh, and they generally seem to love Jesus. It just doesn't compute. But then again, it all makes sense for these authoritarian types. Despite the SLMPD catching none of the criminals who have assaulted and robbed me, my businesses and employees, or home, I have continued to support them. They have NOT protected me and often never showed up when I've called them, but I've continue to serve them, with free meals and cash. No longer. And I'll lose less money on every meal I don't give away to them.

The systematic racism and corruption in our SLMPD and beyond is well-known and documented. (What I've experienced the past few days, however, is trivial when compared to what African Americans do on a daily basis. I don't at all mean to create a false equivalency with this. I know the gun they used on me could have been different if I were black.) I've had many cops and relatives of cops and former cops approach me since this incident to tell me of their own experiences with it, and why they had to leave the force because they could not ethically continue. A co-worker of mine was dining in St. Louis on Friday, when six cops came in bragging about killing Smith, saying "so what, we killed him, St. Louis needs to move on." No one at that table questioned that officer.

But it's so much larger than that. Cops can do no wrong in their minds, and they will defend each other to no end. The authoritarian code in the police departments transcends their work, influences their politics and informs their "faith." It's disgusting, and it was critical to the election of Donald Trump.

[Mayor] Lyda Krewson finally acknowledged the insanity of her employees today, after three days of complimenting "each of you" cops who were doing an "outstanding job." It took media coverage of nazi-esque marching, chants of "owning" the streets, theft of phones by police and illegal deletion of videos of the police and the despicable assault of Mike Faulk of the Post-Dispatch and others to get her to acknowledge what so many of us have known for years.

Chief O'Toole works for Lyda. She can fire him today. He is known as a leader of the corruption and incompetence in the SLMPD. What part of his performance warrants him keeping his job?

Send a message, Lyda — fire O'Toole now.

*** If I may ask anything of those still reading, it's this: The Blue Lives Matter (only) assholes are physically threatening me and my businesses, with hundreds of one-star reviews on Yelp, Google and Facebook. I already have confirmation that some of these will be removed, but if you have some time to counter one of these bogus reviews, I'd greatly appreciate it. They have a big effect on a business. Your continued patronage in our restaurants would be greatly appreciated, too.

Thanks much for reading, and for your friendship and support.

See also: ACLU Files Suit Against St. Louis, Alleging Civil Rights Violations Against Protesters

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