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Smashing pumpkins in Clayton leads to three arrests for littering, assault

Smashing pumpkins in Clayton leads to three arrests for littering, assault

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UPDATED at 5:25 p.m. with details on arrests.

CLAYTON   •   Three people were arrested Monday afternoon during a protest that briefly linked the unrest in Ferguson to the violence that erupted last Friday at a New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival.

The arrests occurred after approximately 10 demonstrators approached the St. Louis County Justice Center with a red wagon filled with pumpkins scrawled with slogans denouncing "RACISM," "WHITE PRIVILEGE," and "HATE."

Authorities took protest organizer Derek Laney into custody after he held a pumpkin overhead and decried the shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police before smashing it at the feet of officers stationed about 10 feet from the Justice Center door.

The pumpkin bore the words "POLICE BRUTALITY."

"We are going to smash (pumpkins) symbolically at the foot of someone who can bring (the Brown) case to justice," Laney said prior to his arrest in a reference to St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, whose office is in the building. "It's another way to let people know we will be heard."

Laney said the staged event also hoped to draw attention to the disparity between the portrayal of the nearly 50 white college students arrested Friday at the annual Keene, N.H. Pumpkin Festival and the characterization of the disruptions in Ferguson following Brown's shooting.

The Keene State University students, he noted, were described as "unruly," "causing a ruckus" and "drunken revelers" while the Ferguson demonstrators were identified as "rioters" and "thugs."

"We're using that as a jumping off point to insist on justice for Mike Brown," said Laney, an organizer with Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment.

Two pumpkins were splattered on the Justice Center terrace.

A Clayton Police lieutenant confiscated a gourd from another protester before she could throw it to the ground.

Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy said the demonstrator was charged with assault because police sensed the pumpkin was about to be lobbed in the "direction of officers arresting another person."

Laney and the second pumpkin smasher were charged with littering.

Murphy said the three arrested were booked and released. 

Laney questioned whether the protesters set a precedent with their actions.

"I wonder if all the white teens in St. Louis County that smash pumpkins on Halloween will face arrest," he said.

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Steve Giegerich is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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