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Monday, June 1, 2015

Protesters Were Tased on Sidewalk Before Arrest for "Impeding Traffic," Video Shows

Posted By on Mon, Jun 1, 2015 at 12:00 PM

For months, local protesters have complained that police arrests are arbitrary and excessive. This photo shows police arresting protesters in Ferguson on August 19. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Danny Wicentowski
  • For months, local protesters have complained that police arrests are arbitrary and excessive. This photo shows police arresting protesters in Ferguson on August 19.

Update: The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is now investigating whether officers' taser user in this incident complied with police policies, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Original story continues below:

On Friday night, police said, a peaceful protest ended in eight arrests after activists blocked traffic on a busy downtown street, refused officers' orders to return to the sidewalk and almost caused multiple car accidents. Two of the protesters resisted arrest, the department claimed, and had to be subdued with a taser.

But the story may not be quite that simple.

A disturbing video of some of those Friday night arrests is raising familiar questions about how the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department responds to civil disobedience, the department's protocols for using tasers and the trustworthiness of its incident reports.

According to a protester arrested that night, the police-issued narrative ignores the full sequence of events that ended with two people -- including a University City school board member -- writhing in pain on the ground and charged for resisting arrest.

"I've seen it happen a few times, I've seen aggression from them," says LaShell Eikerenkoetter, a veteran protester who experienced her first arrest four days after the August 9 death of Michael Brown. "But to experience someone being tased next to me? Hearing her scream, and the police showing no concern? That was just something so heartless."

See also: New Video of Cardinals Fans, Mike Brown Protesters Shows Not All Fans Were Assholes

Here's the video, which shows SLMPD officers arresting protesters on a downtown sidewalk. Eikerenkoetter can be seen at the 14-second mark, wearing a black t-shirt and carrying a messenger bag.

According Eikerenkoetter, the Friday protest started around 8 p.m. when a group of 30 to 40 people gathered on Clark Avenue between Busch Stadium and Ballpark Village.

"At the beginning, the demonstration was a silent march," she says. "We didn't say anything. Some people were really supportive, some people talked a lot of trash, some people were really upset. Somebody threw a drink and ice hit some kids that were with us."

This wasn't the first time protesters took their message of "Black Lives Matter" to St. Louis' sports fans. Back in October, several Cardinals fans were caught on video catcalling protesters with racist remarks and chants, including "crackhead" and "Africa! Africa! Africa!"

Besides a few verbal clashes, Eikerenkoetter says that interactions between activists and Cards fans stayed largely civil during the three hours of protest. Most of the protesters made their way to Kiener Plaza and dispersed around 11 p.m.

However, approximately twelve demonstrators, including Eikerenkoetter, broke off from the main group and began walking down the middle of Washington Avenue. Surveillance footage aired by KTVI Channel 2 shows protesters marching down the middle of the road as cars pass slowly on both sides. Eikerenkoetter can be seen around the 26-second mark walking in the street with her fist raised.

This is what the police suggest nearly caused several car crashes.

"Nobody 'almost hit us'," Eikerenkoetter insists. "We didn't 'almost cause accidents.' We were dead in the middle of the street."

Next: The police begin making arrests.

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