St. Louis police arrest 80 as racial tension boils over

Third night of protests over ‘not guilty’ verdict for white officer who shot dead black man

Demonstrators in St. Louis protests 'not guilty' verdict in police shooting death
(Image credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Police fired tear gas and arrested at least 80 people last night in St. Louis, Missouri, following a weekend of angry protests in a city seething with racial tension.

The unrest followed the acquittal of a white former police officer accused of murdering a black man, Anthony Lamar Smith.

An unidentified chemical was thrown at police officers, and one officer was hospitalised with a leg injury, police said in a statement, reported by ABC News. The department also tweeted photos of knives, masks, guns and protective gear confiscated from a “rioter”, who was arrested.

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The violence came after Jason Stockley, 36, a former St. Louis police officer, was found not guilty of murdering 24-year-old Smith in 2011. BuzzFeed News reports that at the time of the shooting, during a high-speed chase over a suspected drug deal, Stockley was heard saying: “We’re killing this motherf*****, don’t you know it.”

St. Louis - which has about 315,000 residents and is located along the Mississippi River - has an history of racial confrontations between police and residents.

Tensions bubbled over in 2014 when Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, was shot dead by a white police officer in the northern suburb of Ferguson, but police had been wrestling with racial tension for decades, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Sunday’s protest involved a “die-in”, in which demonstrators lay on the streets outside police headquarters. Other protesters carried “Black Lives Matter” signs and chanted, “Stop killing us”, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

There were differing reports about the number of people arrested on Sunday evening, the newspaper says, but at least 80 were detained, with the city’s police chief declaring that “the police owned” the night.

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