A protest scheduled for Clayton's Shaw Park tonight assembled around 5 p.m. as planned, only to announce a change in plan — organizers announced they'd be going to the St. Louis Galleria in Brentwood.
But once they arrived inside the mall, organizers again announced an abrupt change of plans. "We're out," they told those assembled. And then they exited the mall and began to march down Galleria Parkway.
Their cry? "No justice, no profit" — the same warning that they deployed at a pair of suburban shopping centers on Saturday
By 6:15 p.m., several hundred protesters had turned out.
Protesters heading outside the central shopping area hit a wall of resistance in the person of cops in riot gear. At that point, they turned around and headed back to the Galleria shopping center.
There were no altercations and no arrests, just a clear message: Police were not willing to cede the 170 on-ramp — or, indeed, let protesters get anywhere close to it.
At 6:25 p.m., police announced that it was an unlawful assembly — and gave protesters orders to disperse.
"This is your first warning," one said.
"This is your final warning," another said immediately.
They then forced protesters back into the parking lot. Protesters complied, and the brief moment of tension ended without any arrests.
At 6:38 p.m., the organizers announced the action is over, telling everyone to head to their cars and head homes. Just about everybody did just that — and with that, the county averted the kind of high-stress nights that St. Louis has faced in the last week.
It wasn't for lack of buildup. The announcement that protests were coming to Clayton triggered a wave of cancellations in the upscale St. Louis suburb, including closures to the tennis center (which closed at 3:30 p.m.), the previously scheduled municipal night court and even athletic practices at Clayton High School.
Protests across the St. Louis following the acquittal of former city cop Jason Stockley on murder charges
have draw more than 1,000 people to marches through the Central West End, the Loop and downtown. In some cases, however, agitators have broken windows and smashed flowerpots — and police have responded aggressively, with teargas, pepper balls
and several hundred arrests, mostly on charges of failure to disperse
Before tonight's protests, County Executive Steve Stenger issued a statement weighing on the controversial chant made by some St. Louis police officers — "Whose streets? Our streets!" which drew a rebuke from the ACLU and reproach from Mayor Lyda Krewson.
Wrote Stenger, "I also want to address a question that has generated a great deal of controversy in recent days. The question: Whose streets?
"On behalf of the one million residents of St. Louis County, I can answer that question: the streets belong to those who respect each other and the law. They belong to those who travel them in the course of their daily lives. And they belong to those who wish to exercise their rights as Americans to speak their minds and to protest in a lawful manner."
But Stenger added, "As to those who would ignore the law, who would violate the rights of their fellow citizens and wreak senseless harm and havoc, I want to send a clear message: these are not YOUR streets. And they never will be."