'The Police Owned the Night' Chief Says After 80+ Arrested Downtown

click to enlarge Police mass downtown on Sunday, September 17. - PHOTO BY THEO WELLING
Police mass downtown on Sunday, September 17.
After a peaceful protest at police headquarters yesterday afternoon was followed by a night of destruction downtown, St. Louis Police arrested more than 80.

In an early morning press conference, Acting Police Chief Lawrence O'Toole boasted that his troops had matters under control.

See also: Downtown swelled with protesters Sunday (PHOTOS)

"I'm proud to say the city of St. Louis and the police owned the night," O'Toole said. "Our officers are doing outstanding work."

O'Toole made a distinction between protesters and those who've caused destruction, saying, "Once again, a group of criminals set out to break windows and destroy property. Tonight, those criminals are in jail."

See also: Huge crowd protests at police headquarters downtown Sunday

But reports from the field suggest a more complicated narrative. While some who continued to protest after 9 p.m. did engage in destruction — including shattered windows and smashed flowerpots — those swept up in the arrests include at least one journalist, a livestreamer and others who were simply trying to flee the scene.

click to enlarge Broken flowerpots show the destruction downtown in the late night of Sunday, September 17. - PHOTO BY THEO WELLING
Broken flowerpots show the destruction downtown in the late night of Sunday, September 17.

Mike Faulk, a seasoned reporter covering the protests for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, tweeted last night at 11:22 p.m. that he was in a group that was seeking to disperse, but penned in by law enforcement.

Photographer David Carson tweeted that Faulk was among those arrested by police. "It was a mass arrest," he tweeted. "People complained that police didn't give them a way to exit."

Jon Ziegler, a well-known livestreamer who goes by Rebelutionary Z, was also reportedly among those arrested. Ziegler was among the first to post footage of the incident in Charlottesville last month when a protester was killed by a speeding car; closer to home, he also captured the scene in Kirkwood when a driver sped through a "Convict Stockley" protest.

Ziegler had been livestreaming at the protests, but his Twitter feed suddenly went quiet late last night. He's been identified as among those detained.

Journalists within the group downtown late last night allege that they heard police taking the familiar protester chant "whose streets? our streets" and turn it on its head — by themselves chanting the refrain.

In video shot by a protester the scene and later posted to Twitter by Carson, the refrain is audible.

"I spoke with the commander at the scene, he said he did not hear the chant, but said chant was not acceptable, said he would deal with it," Carson tweeted.

Asked about the statement this morning, state Representative Bruce Franks Jr. tells the RFT, "The people are the machine. We are the system. We make up the system. That's the new narrative. We will affect your peace. We will make you uncomfortable. Peace is not an option. Non-violence is."

See also: St. Louis Cop Backs Through Protest Crowd (Video)

In the press statement, posted live to video in the 1 a.m. hour, Mayor Lyda Krewson spoke just before Acting Chief O'Toole. The mayor looked tired but firm as she addressed the camera.

"Today we saw again that the vast majority of protesters are non-violent. But for the third day in a row the days have been calm and the nights have been destructive," Krewson said. "A group of agitators stayed behind apparently intent on breaking windows and destroying property. This is not acceptable.

"We have work to do here in the city. We need more and better opportunities for all our citizens. But destruction cannot be tolerated."

Krewson thanked all the first responders for "the outstanding job they have been doing over the last three days." She added, "Law enforcement has my full support."

O'Toole ended with the press statement with a bit of foreshadowing as to where the police department's next battle may lie — with the city's chief prosecutor, Kim Gardner. The elected circuit attorney will have to determine which of the arrests result in prosecution.

"These criminals should be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," O'Toole said.

Danny Wicentowski contributed to this story

Editor's note: A previous version of this story inadvertently named David Carson as the Post-Dispatch journalist arrested Sunday night. It was Mike Faulk. We have since corrected the story, and we regret the error.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected]

About The Author

Sarah Fenske

Sarah Fenske is the executive editor of Euclid Media Group, overseeing publications in eight cities. She is the former host of St. Louis on the Air and was previously editor-in-chief of the RFT and the LA Weekly. She lives in St. Louis.
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