I’ve been thinking of Mandela’s words a lot in the last few days. It’s a reflection that resonates quite a lotfor me, standing on the sidelines as I watch and listen to news about the protests and often questionable police responses that have been happening daily for more than a week. On Friday, September 15, a judge found Jason Stockley not guilty of murder in the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith, an African American man who fled the scene when Stockley and his partner tried to confront him for what they suspected was a drug deal. Stockley shot Smith five times at the end of the ensuing chase.
You can read more about the verdict here, and see the full verdict here. Stockley opted for a bench trial, rather than a jury trial, and in the weeks leading up to the decision, things were tense. The governor even decided to make sure the National Guard was on hand “just in case” when the verdict came down. (Note: I may have missed something, but I don’t think the National Guard has actually been used at any protests.)
The Stockley verdict has since become a rallying point for protesters around the all-too-real problems of police brutality against African Americans in St. Louis and around the nation. The problem is that there’s one narrative making the news more than anything else: the small contingent of people engaging in rioting actions, such as destruction of property. While this has happened, it’s been anything but the main story.
Here in St. Louis, it’s possible to get a more nuanced view of the story, although it’s still a challenge. Most recently, a protest this past weekend at a local mall ended in 22 arrests and accusations of police using force inappropriately, and in the aftermath, lawyers could not get access to their clients. I’ve heard from a friend who was there that it was peaceful, and there are videos from the protest here and here so you can see for yourself. Another post making the rounds from a local nun who was present supports the claim that the police response was unwarranted. Among those arrested? A 13-year-old boy.
If you’re hearing about the St. Louis protests, and in particular, if all you’re hearing is news of broken windows and the few acts of vandalism that have all too often taken away from the good, peaceful protests happening – well, you’re missing a lot of the story, too. As a local columnist put it in some of his early commentary on police responses to the protesters,
“Well, actually, we tolerate lots of broken windows in poor neighborhoods. You can walk through many of them on the north and south sides and see that they’ve been there for months. There will be no enforcement there, because, well, that would take resources away from the Central West End and other neighborhoods where wealthy white people live. There will be zero tolerance for broken windows in those neighborhoods.”
Mostly, I wanted to offer a round up of links and resources that can be helpful to understand what’s happening in St. Louis (and why). I haven’t been able to participate in the protests, although I stand in solidarity. Right now, trying to keep on top of the news and goings-on, educating myself and then being able to educate my students – those have been my priorities.
What are you hearing about St. Louis? What questions do you have? Tweet us and let us know what narrative you’re hearing and what you want to know.
Photo Gallery, The St. Louis American: “September 18 Stockley Verdict Protests”
Shula Neuman, Jason Rosenbaum, and Eli Chen, “Day 9 after Stockley verdict: Protesters show solidarity for those arrested”
Jeremy Kohler, Christine Byers, and Erin Heffernan, “Undercover cop, Air Force officer ,med student among those police swept up during last Sunday’s downtown protest”
Many thanks to Erin Wright for letting me borrow her compilation of local media, organizations, and other resources to follow.