Violence continued Sunday in St. Louis, where rioters raged over the verdict of “not guilty” for a white police officer who killed a black assailant.
On December 20th, 2011, 36-year-old Jason Stockley shot Jamar Smith, 24, five times after a high-speed chase that ended in a crash. Stockley claimed he was defending himself; critics accused Stockley of planting the gun that was found on Smith.
Protests over Judge Timothy Wilson’s decision began shortly after the conclusion of the trial Friday, and the savagery of the crowd escalated over the weekend.
Police called the demonstration “no longer peaceful” as of Saturday night, with weapons confiscated and 32 arrests made. Activists blocked highways, destroyed property, pelted the mayor’s house with rocks, and threw bricks at officers.
Capping the three-day reign of mayhem, more than 80 people were taken to jail on Sunday.
At a briefing early Monday morning, St. Louis Interim Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole assured the city that safety and the rule of law would prevail:
“People setting out to do damage are being arrested and these criminals we’ve arrested should be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law…We’re in control; this is our city, and we’re going to protect it.”
Among those arrested Sunday, at least one assailant wore protective gear and was armed with guns and other weapons.
Sunday’s protestors began quietly in front of the police department, then transitioned to shouting “Stop killing us.” Later, they marched through the streets, breaking windows and, in the words of the police, “creating chaos.”
Violent protests are becoming all too common; from high schools to universities to the public square, uncivil disobedience is being tolerated in the name of open-mindedness and sensitivity. The result is a lessened respect for the law and order that keeps the fabric of society intact. It's time the message went out: to paraphrase Chief O'Toole, "This is our country and we're going to protect it."