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Protests turn violent in Delmar Loop late Saturday; second night of post-verdict strife

Protests turn violent in Delmar Loop late Saturday; second night of post-verdict strife

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UNIVERSITY CITY • For the second consecutive night, peaceful daytime protests descended into late-night violence with broken windows and thrown rocks, water bottles and garbage can lids following Friday's acquittal of a white former police officer in the shooting death of a black suspect.

Shortly before 11 p.m. at Leland and Delmar, a small group of protesters threw chunks of concrete at police and broke windows at numerous Delmar Loop businesses. A chair was thrown through the window of a Starbucks. One protester was seen hitting a police SUV with a hammer. Police made more than a half-dozen arrests witnessed by reporters, including a protester who was carried away by officers by his arms and legs. 

Watch: Stores damaged in Loop protests

As the chaos escalated, scores of police officers in riot gear pushed forward against the demonstrators just after 11 p.m. — about two hours after daytime protest organizers had congratulated their followers on keeping their demonstrations peaceful.

By 11:30, about 200 police officers had pushed most of the protesters out of the area and the violence and vandalism appeared to be dissipating. The sidewalks along the vibrant area of restaurants and shops were strewn with glass from broken windows. 

Earlier in the day, hundreds of protesters marched through the Delmar Loop near nightfall Saturday, as Mayor Lyda Krewson appealed to residents for calm and normalcy going into the second night of protests.

"These are not the images we want to see of our city," Krewson told reporters at an early evening news conference, referring to violence in the Central West End the night before that included damage to her house. "We have some work to do here."

She implored residents to "go about their lives" amid canceled events and uncertainty about how long the unrest would continue. "I know our small-business owners would appreciate seeing you again," she said. "Of course, go to work, of course go out to eat. We shouldn't be so fearful here."

In fact, even as protests continued elsewhere, things were already beginning to look normal again Saturday night in the Central West End, after Friday's violence there. People crowded into restaurants, some sitting outside. Some restaurants had boards over their windows with "we're open" written on them.

Protests during the day Saturday were generally peaceful, though the injuries to 11 police officers and dozens of arrests from Friday night loomed as warnings of how quickly a crowd can become "a mob," as Acting Police Chief Lawrence O'Toole put it at the same news conference. 

"We will not tolerate violence," warned O'Toole, whose officers ended up using pepper spray and tear gas on protesters late Friday.

By shortly after 7 p.m. Saturday, more than a thousand protesters carrying "Black Lives Matter" signs and chanting things like "No Justice, No Profits" were blocking the major intersection at Skinker and Forest Park Parkway near Washington University.

Police later closed Delmar for the marchers, who were relatively peaceful going into the evening. Some yelled "F--- the police!" while others shook officers' hands.

Cori Bush, a social worker and activist who is running for Congress in Missouri's St. Louis-based 1st District, helped lead the marchers early Saturday evening. At the intersection of Skinker and Delmar boulevards, she called for a six-minute "die-in" for the six years since the fatal police shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith.

Bush said city officials and media focused too much on the vandalism in the Central West End late Friday night.

"None of it could've happened at all, had there not been a dead body, had there not been a police officer who did something absolutely horrendous," she said on loud speaker to the crowd.

"The message is simple: stop killing us," she said. "Black folks say, stop killing us."

• Acquitted officer Stockley: 'Everyone wants someone to blame, but I'm just not the guy'

• Stockley verdict not a surprise based on history, or for legal experts

• A breakdown of the judge's rulingread the verdict

• The Jason Stockley case: a timeline of events

• Follow tweets from Post-Dispatch reporters covering protests

One brush with violence came on Forest Park Parkway, when a car pulled up to the marchers and stopped just short of them. Some protesters responded by surrounding and banging on the car, until protest organizers got them to let the driver leave.

At one point, Annie Smith, mother of  shooting victim Anthony Lamar Smith, joined the marchers.

Protest organizers announced just before 9 p.m. that they were ending the demonstration for the night, and asked people to return home.

"They expected us to do things, but we needed to do things differently," one of the speakers told the crowd of more than 1,000 gathered near the former Cicero's restaurant in University City, referring to the generally peaceful day.

In previous protests, both this weekend and during the unrest in Ferguson in 2014, generally peaceful, organized marches during the day were often followed by violent impromptu demonstrations and property damage late at night. 

Organizers Saturday night said they planned a "die in" on Sunday at 3 p.m. near St. Louis Police headquarters on Olive Street.

Officials earlier Saturday released a list of 33 people who were charged with crimes from Friday night's events. Charges included assault, destruction of property, resisting arrest and failure to disperse. One of those arrested had a home address in Iowa, another was listed as "homeless," and the rest were from St. Louis or the surrounding area.

The understandable sense of outrage over Friday’s not-guilty verdict in the Jason Stockley trial has culminated in a frenzy of nighttime violence that defies logic. Particularly confusing was the decision of protesters to attack Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home and a public library.

Officials also released a list of injuries to the 11 unnamed officers. They included one officer with a broken jaw and another with a dislocated shoulder, both from thrown bricks, and various lesser injuries caused primarily by thrown objects.

Among property damage Friday night, police said in a statement, were broken windows and thrown red paint at Krewson's home near Lake and Waterman; shattered windows at various locations in the area including a Subway sandwich shop, a Walgreen's, the St. Louis Public Library's Schlafly Branch, and several local businesses; broken vehicle windows including those on two police vehicles; and 18 fires.

Among numerous canceled St. Louis events for the weekend were planned concerts by U2 and Ed Sheeran, because police couldn't guarantee security. 

Former St. Louis Patrolman Jason Stockley, who is white, was found not guilty of first-degree murder Friday after an August bench trial in the 2011 shooting of drug suspect Anthony Lamar Smith, who was black. Prosecutors alleged Stockley executed Smith following a car chase and then planted a gun in his car. Stockley maintained that Smith reached for the gun and that he shot Smith in self defense.

Kevin McDermott, Nassim Benchaabane, Jacob Barker, Lisa Brown and Joe Holleman of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.