RICHMOND HEIGHTS • Police arrested at least 22 people in a protest at the St. Louis Galleria on Saturday afternoon amid the continuing reaction to the acquittal Sept. 15 of a white police officer in the shooting death of a black drug suspect.
On Saturday night, the protest group had moved to the Ritz Carlton hotel in Clayton and then outside the doors of the Target store in Brentwood. They left the area outside the store by about 8 p.m.
Some protesters remained outside the St. Louis County Justice Center in Clayton, as rumors circulated that those in custody would be released Saturday night. But a police spokesman said those in custody would remain overnight and state charges would be filed against them on Sunday.
One of the people waiting outside was Ian Barczewski, 29, of St. Louis, who said that his friend and colleague Zach Becker was in custody. Becker had gone to the mall to buy a suitcase for a work trip and saw a friend of his protesting. He stopped to talk, heard whistles and saw police approaching, Barczewski said. Two officers kneed Becker, then zip tied his hands in front of his body. He was able to send a message to Barczewski through Facebook: “help help help.”
Barczewski said Becker had a kidney transplant and takes medication regularly. He tried to get police attention at the Justice Center to get the medicine to Becker, but couldn’t get a response. Eventually, a legal observer got in touch with a nurse who got the medication to Becker.
“I don’t have faith in the current police system,” Barczewski said.
At the Galleria, police made the arrests and cleared the mall building of demonstrators after some in the group refused orders to disperse. Among those arrested was a 13-year-old boy, who was later released to his parents.
Basel Isa said he did not hear an order to disperse. He said “all we heard were whistles” and then police were arresting people.
“It was chaotic,” he said.
At one point, police prevented some protesters from getting on an escalator to join others already on the second floor. Some trash cans were overturned.
St. Louis County police said that an officer was taken to a hospital with a back injury and that two protesters had minor injuries. A tweet from county police said the charges were expected to include rioting, trespassing, disorderly conduct and assaulting a law enforcement officer.
Police said about 150 other people followed dispersal warnings and “peacefully left.”
Another tweet from county police said that “no one has the right to destroy the property of others and remain on private property after being asked to leave.”
The mall entrances were closed by police, but a Galleria security spokesman said the mall was open again before 3 p.m.
Richmond Heights police said in a Facebook post that the Galleria’s management had initially allowed the peaceful protest to proceed. But police said management later asked that it be stopped when protesters refused to refrain from blocking shoppers’ access to escalators.
“This was not tolerated by mall management, and they wanted all protesters removed from the mall,” police said.
Police said the blocking was done “in an attempt to take over the second floor of the mall.”
Richmond Heights police said they gave three orders to disperse, after which the arrests began. County police were called in to assist.
Also Saturday afternoon, more than 100 protesters showed up outside America’s Center in downtown St. Louis. No one was arrested there.
The group at America’s Center first massed on the sidewalk outside the Washington Avenue entrance, then moved into the street.
The group then walked down Seventh to Convention Center Plaza. Watching them from inside glass doors to the facility were people attending a conference organized by evangelist Joyce Meyer.
Protesters included several clergy members. One protest backer, the Rev. Darryl Gray, said one of their goals was to get Meyer to speak out. Gray, in a statement issued before the protest, said Meyer had a national platform “and we are calling upon her to use it to speak against police shooting of unarmed black people” especially after the verdict.
A spokeswoman for Meyer, Lori Potter, said that Meyer would not address the group and that she had a full schedule at the conference.
The judge’s ruling that spurred the protests acquitted Jason Stockley, an ex-St. Louis police officer, in the death in 2011 of Anthony Lamar Smith.
Stockley argued that he shot Smith in self-defense after a suspected drug deal and a high-speed pursuit and crash.
Prosecutors had charged Stockley with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. They alleged that he carried out the premeditated murder of Smith by shooting him five times at close range and then planting a revolver in Smith’s car after police pulled Smith’s body from the vehicle.