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Monday, September 25, 2017

Galleria Arrests Were 'a Police Riot,' Elected Officials Allege

Posted By on Mon, Sep 25, 2017 at 5:16 PM

click to enlarge Reverend Cassandra Gould spoke alongside Rabbi Susan Talve at today's press conference at St. Peters AME Church. - PHOTO BY ELIZABETH SEMKO.
  • Photo by Elizabeth Semko.
  • Reverend Cassandra Gould spoke alongside Rabbi Susan Talve at today's press conference at St. Peters AME Church.

Clergy, community members and some elected officials are sharply criticizing police handling of the protest at the St. Louis Galleria on Saturday, saying officers' militant tactics and lack of accountability and control led to a violent situation.

"Let me be clear: it was terrorism," said the Rev. Karen Anderson, pastor of Ward Chapel of AME Church, of the police tactics.

"I'm a mother, I'm a grandmother, and I'm outraged," said the Reverend  Cassandra Gould, executive director of Missouri Faith Voices and Religious Affairs Chair, Missouri NAACP.

Police arrested 22 people at the mall Saturday afternoon; they were then held at the Justice Center in Clayton for more than 24 hours. Some speakers questioned how they were treated while detained. Representative Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) recounted attempting and failing to get answers Saturday night for those held in the Justice Center in Clayton and how people delivering medicine to those inside were turned away.

Newman used the phrase "police riot" to describe the actions of officers on the
click to enlarge Representative Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) addresses the media at today's press conference about the St. Louis Galleria protest. - PHOTO BY ELIZABETH SEMKO.
  • Photo by Elizabeth Semko.
  • Representative Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) addresses the media at today's press conference about the St. Louis Galleria protest.
 scene Saturday.

"We are not anti-law enforcement," Newman said. "What we are is we are against extreme police tactics that can only be explained as a police riot."

Speakers addressing the media in front of St. Peters AME Church at a press conference this afternoon included Newman and her fellow representatives Joe Adams (D-University City) and Bruce Franks, Jr. (D-St. Louis), along with St. Louis County Councilwoman Rochelle Walton Gray (District 4) and clergy at St. Peters.

The pastors had a special interest in the events Saturday — a minister on staff, the Reverend Dr. Karla Frye, was among those arrested. Frye is now facing a felony charge of assault against a law enforcement officer. Under state law, police are considered "special victims" — which means harsher penalties for those found guilty of assaulting them.

Frye was not at this afternoon's press conference.

Protesters had gathered at the Richmond Heights mall Saturday afternoon to protest the acquittal of Jason Stockley. About an hour into the protest, St. Louis County Police say that they ordered protesters to disperse. When they didn't, police began making arrests — and protesters report the police using aggressive tactics. Several videos capture the chaos that ensued.

In a statement, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar defended the officers.

"The St. Louis County Police Department has used an incredible amount of discretion during these periods of civil unrest. Citizens have been allowed to exercise their First Amendment Rights; however, when those protests descend into criminal activity, law enforcement has no other choice but to intervene," his statement said.

Still, Belmar noted that the department would look into "use of force" on the arrests, which the ACLU has issued a statement criticizing.

"Any use of force that occurred at the Galleria Mall on Saturday, September 23, 2017, has been documented and will be reviewed as is the practice and policy of this department.The individuals arrested and charged during this incident will be the responsibility of the judicial system," Belmar's statement said.

The chief added, "False narratives should not be purported without facts and is not helpful.”

At the press conference, the elected officials urged people to stand up to overreaching law enforcement.

"We have to stop being afraid," Adams said, noting that cops are afraid of their citizens because they don't know their citizens. He added that citizens must defend the right to peacefully protest to stop actual riots from happening.

Of police tactics Saturday, Newman said, "This is not acceptable in our state."

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