Another white cop was acquitted Friday on charges of murdering a Black man. Again, the city of St. Louis reels. Again, activists were met with counterproductive aggression when, on Sunday, cops in riot gear arrested over 80 people during what was supposed to be a peaceful protest in a fight for justice. And again, those arrested were referred to as “criminals.”
“We’re in control,” Interim Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole said during a news conference around 1 a.m. on Monday. “This is our city and we’re going to protect it. I’m proud to tell you the city of St. Louis is safe and the police owned tonight.”
The ghosts of Ferguson continue to echo throughout St. Louis as the Jason Stockley verdict, a harrowing end to the murder of motorist Anthony Lamar Smith, reopened wounds (on Friday night, tear gas was deployed in response to reported vandalism by demonstrators).
But even more triggering is footage which appears to have captured police chanting “whose streets, our streets”—a phrase most notably used by Black Lives Matters protesters—while making those arrests on Tucker Blvd. Photojournalist David Carson, who tweeted from the scene around the time, says the present commander called the police’s actions unacceptable and would supposedly “deal with it.”
CASSIUS reached out to SLMPD on Monday for confirmation.
“The Department is aware of the video circulating on social media, and is reviewing the footage,” Schron Jackson—public information representative for the Metropolitan Police Department, City of St. Louis—tells CASSIUS via email, though there was no clarification as to whether or not the incident was addressed. “We hold our officers to the highest standards of professionalism and any officer not meeting those standards will be held accountable.”
Make no mistake, nothing has changed since 2014’s Ferguson events. MO General Assembly member Maria Chappelle Nadal—who lives minutes away from Central West End where the mayor’s home was damaged on Saturday and is creating safe spaces on social media for those experiencing trauma—cites Sunday night’s events as a “great example.”
“There were legal observers who were [also] arrested last night who were just making sure that everyone’s first amendment rights were adhered to,” she tells CASSIUS. “What is most disturbing is the fact that police officers focused on arresting livestreamers because they don’t want to get the story out. It’s totally reflective of what happened on Friday night when there were activists on the ground who were seeking a safe harbor in the synagogue.”
Central Reform Congregation had opened its doors on Friday as a sanctuary for demonstrators, but according to Nadal, police attempted to enter and arrest and mase those individuals seeking solace.
“There are a lot of bandaids to cover up racism and it’s like putting lipstick on a pig,” Nadal continues. “St. Louis is a racist city. And the fact that people are protesting in various places throughout the region is hurting the economy and the state’s revenue and the White establishment is sickened. They are sickened by the fact there are even peaceful protests right now.”
It’s also clear law enforcement nationwide has been emboldened by the haphazard rhetoric coming from the White House, in turn influencing cops to act as if they’re part of a police state protecting white interests and property.
Take the appropriation of Black protestors’ mantra into account. It’s meant to insinuate that idea—the belief that law enforcement maintains sole control over the streets and Black bodies on the frontline. But the broad and diverse coalition of activists in St. Louis aren’t here for it. If Ferguson taught us nothing else, we learned the loss of Black life is not a game or a joke. They will keep fighting. And we’ll keep watching.
This story was updated on Monday, September 18, 2017 at 3:45 p.m. EST.