The understandable sense of outrage over Friday’s not-guilty verdict in the Jason Stockley trial 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 branch.
The St. Louis Police Department handled Friday’s mostly peaceful daytime protests deftly, in sharp contrast to the harsh military-style responses the 2014 police-shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. This time, protesters got ample room to march, yell and vent their anger over former Officer Jason Stockley’s acquittal for the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith.
When bricks and water bottles were hurled, officers employed pepper spray and made arrests.
Anticipating that protesters would take to the highways, police blocked ramps at strategic locations while generally avoiding overt confrontation. Where police correctly drew the line was when the protests turned violent.
Some protesters have said they plan to attack symbols of commerce and inflict discomfort on the comfortable. Even if they rationalize property destruction as legitimate protest, why attack the mayor’s house?
Krewson was only elected mayor in April and had nothing to do with the trial or the way police and prosecutors handled the too-long investigation into Smith’s death. Her first act in office was to oust Police Chief Sam Dotson.
On Friday, she stated that she was “appalled by what happened” to Smith and was “sobered by the outcome” of Stockley’s trial. She clearly shared protesters’ incredulity over the verdict, as did other politicians.
Krewson has suffered more than her share of “discomfort.” She entered public service as an alderman after the 1995 shooting death of her husband during an attempted carjacking outside their home. Krewson and her children were present. In what twisted sense does attacking her home serve as retribution for Stockley’s acquittal?
Equally absurd is the attack on a Central West End library branch, where windows were broken and the interior trashed. What’s the message here, that books and knowledge are bad? Attacking a public library only underscores the ignorance of the vandals themselves.
No one should rest comfortably after hearing the verdict and knowing the multiple ways that Stockley violated police procedures in his hot pursuit of Smith, a suspected drug dealer who was fleeing arrest.
Stockley got his day in court, but he denied Smith the same right by appearing, in the eyes of many, to serve as judge, jury and executioner at the scene of the shooting. Stockley’s recorded statement of an intent to kill Smith seconds before doing so was one of many disturbing elements in this case.
No matter how much property is destroyed, neither Stockley’s actions nor the verdict can be undone. Inflicting more injustice will never get protesters the justice they seek.