Published: Wed, September 20, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

The problem with St. Louis police chanting "Whose streets? Our streets!"

The problem with St. Louis police chanting

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson says it wasn't acceptable for police to chant "Whose streets?"

The Associated Press reports that protesters have been very successful in hitting the city in the wallet, with thousands of protesters shutting down several restaurants, bars and big corporate offices. Earlier, protesters marched peacefully in response to a not guilty verdict in the trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley. "This mob was intent on destroying or damaging property, assaulting police officers and setting fires", he said.

Dick Odenthal, a retired Los Angeles County sheriff's captain, said he and his colleagues never used that specific term during his career from 1968 to 2000.

The violence evoked memories of the riots following the 2014 shooting of a black teenager by a white officer in nearby Ferguson, Mo. Some who had moved from the region said they did so because of the segregation and racism they experienced while living here.

By 4:30 p.m., protesters staged a "die-in", lying on the street in front of the police station as if dead and then marched west on Olive Street into Midtown and through St. Louis University's campus as students watched from their dormitory balconies. She said police are under a lot of stress but "that's not an excuse". Later, officers in riot gear gathered alongside a city boulevard chanting "whose street, our street" - a common refrain used by the protesters - after clearing the street of demonstrators and onlookers. The officer quit the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 2013 and was arrested in May 2016.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch photojournalist David Carson was there when all of this was going down.

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The problem with St. Louis police chanting "Whose streets? Our streets!"

The mayor and police chief have said protests have been largely nonviolent, although there's been some vandalism and violence at night after organized protests are over. Police ordered them to disperse, saying the protest was illegal. That officers would appropriate that very language offends the sensibilities of those with a historical perspective as the USA deals with the latest example of unrest over a police shooting of a black man.

"Officers also deployed nonlethal crowd-control devices - including pepper spray, tear gas, flash-bang grenades, concussion grenades, and smoke flares - upon protesters and others both on the street and inside the kettle, without warning or threat of harm to officers or other members of the public".

Organizers hoped to spread the impact of the protests beyond predominantly black neighborhoods to those that are mainly white.

Some people vented about the court's decision to acquit Jason Stockley, who as an officer in 2011 shot and killed a motorist. And this is on top of police officers reportedly co-opting a Black Lives Matter slogan and chanting "Whose streets?" St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson, who said prosecutors didn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stockley murdered Smith, said the statement could be ambiguous. At least half of the shops on one side of a two-block stretch of the popular nightlife district were broken by the time the area was cleared. And at first we both thought it was another group of protesters who were coming to confront the police.

Since the verdict has come down, St. Louis has been in a constant state of unrest. Prosecutors argued that a revolver found in Smith's vehicle had been planted by Stockley to justify the shooting.

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