ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Clashes between demonstrators and riot-clad police marred the end of what had been a largely peaceful second day of protest rallies in St. Louis following the acquittal of a white police officer in the fatal shooting of a black man.
Several hundred people gathered near Washington University after dark as the main rallies and marches wound down on Saturday evening.
As the night wore on violence broke out between some of roughly 100 remaining protesters, some holding bats or hammers, and riot-clad police who ordered them to disperse.
Shop and restaurant windows were smashed, including at businesses crowded with patrons, and demonstrators hurled trash cans at officers, who numbered about 200.
Police declared the scene an unlawful assembly and threatened to deploy tear gas and arrested at least eight people.
“We had been getting such a good turn out earlier and it was a peaceful protest,” said Jomar Jackson, 32. “But then a bunch of people came and decided to be disruptive.”
Elisheva Heit, whose flower shop window was smashed on the eve of its grand opening, said “I don’t understand how this would bring the poor guy back to life.”
Sweeping up glass, she asked passing officers “This is how you protect people?”
The demonstrations began peacefully on Friday after Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson acquitted former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley, 36, of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith, 24.
But as on Saturday, Friday’s protests ended in late night violence, with 33 arrests after clashes on which 10 officers were hurt.
“We don’t want to see property destruction or see people getting hurt,” Elad Gross, a 29-year-old St. Louis civil rights attorney, told Reuters as activists gathered peacefully at another protest site in a park on Saturday.
“But this is a protest that addresses injustices not only happening here in St. Louis but around the country.”