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Protests erupt in St. Louis, nationwide after grand jury declines to charge Louisville police in Breonna Taylor death

Protests erupt in St. Louis, nationwide after grand jury declines to charge Louisville police in Breonna Taylor death

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Protests against police brutality and legal injustices continue to emerge this week after the Wednesday announcement that a grand jury in Louisville, Kentucky, will not seek charges against the officers who shot and killed a Black woman earlier this year during a police raid.

On Thursday, about 200 people gathered in downtown St. Louis for a vigil to commemorate Breonna Taylor. They marched through downtown chanting, “Say her name,” then blocked Interstate 64 (Highway 40), where they held a candlelight vigil and a moment of silence.

Protesters moved off the highway after about 30 minutes.

One night earlier, protesters also gathered in Florissant and downtown St. Louis to protest the grand jury’s decision.

Late Wednesday, police extinguished a fire outside St. Louis police headquarters after a group of protesters, unaffiliated with a protest group, started a blaze at the entrance of the building.

Police announced Thursday that two people were charged in connection with the incident — Andrew Falvey was charged with first-degree arson, felony resisting arrest and fourth-degree assault against a special victim, and Treyton Campbell was charged with fourth-degree assault against a special victim and misdemeanor resisting arrest.

”Burning buildings is less violent than shooting someone six times,” Ohun Ashe, an organizer with local protest group ExpectUs, said Thursday. “If you are more concerned with the reactions of people than the actions of the killers, you’re part of the problem.”

Police said no injuries were reported in St. Louis or Florissant.

Prior to the fire, protesters marched downtown from the old courthouse building to City Hall, where they took down barricades in front of the building. The barricades were originally put up when protesters from OccupyCityHallSTL camped out over the summer to call for the mayor’s resignation.

Police quickly replaced the barricades as protesters headed to Washington Avenue, then back to the courthouse.

Earlier Wednesday, about a half-dozen protesters were arrested in Florissant for suspicion of peace disturbance.

“We’re here in support of Louisville and because there are several Breonna Taylors in St. Louis, and we are fed up. We’re tired of seeing it,” said Bishop Derrick Robinson, a leader of Respect Us, another local protest group.

Robinson helped gather protesters outside police headquarters in Florissant, where an ex-detective was charged over the summer with assault and armed criminal action after he was caught on video running over a man during a chase. Protesters said they didn’t want what happened in Louisville — what they see as a lack of legal accountability — to happen in Florissant, too.

The former detective, Joshua Smith, is scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 7, court records show. His co-counsel is James Paul Towey Kr., who also helped defend former St. Louis Officer Jason Stockley, found not guilty of murder by a judge in 2017.

Prior to the arrests in Florissant, police gave at least two warnings for protesters to get out of the street. When police moved in for arrests, some protesters were pulled from vehicles across the street from the police department.

In July, police arrested at least 17 people during an ExpectUs protest at Florissant, as protesters and police blamed each other for initiating violence that day.

In Florissant’s neighboring city of Ferguson, police are in the process of revitalizing policies due to the Department of Justice’s consent decree, specifically with respect to protecting citizens’ first amendment rights during protest.

Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday announced he was activating the Missouri National Guard as a precautionary measure in response to unrest. The order puts the National Guard on alert.

Updated at 8 p.m. Thursday with more information.

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Reporter covering breaking news and crime by night. Born in Algeria but grew up in St. Louis. Previously reported for The Associated Press in Jackson, Mississippi and at the Wichita Eagle in Wichita, Kansas.

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