Letter: Police face spit, rocks, fireworks from protesters

Letter: Police face spit, rocks, fireworks from protesters

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Protests in Richmond Heights

Protesters hold up photos of Terry Tillman and yell at a line police officers on Clayton Road outside the St. Louis Galleria mall on Sunday, May 31, 2020. The protesters were demonstrating about an incident in August of 2019 where a Richmond Heights police officer fatally shot Terry Tillman. Police say Tillman pointed a gun at officers before he was shot. Tillman's friends and family say police planted Tillman's gun at the scene and that he'd dropped it during a foot chase before he was shot. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

The protests one sees on a daily basis are a potent mix of seasoned campaigners who know what they are doing, and a raft of mostly younger first-timers with little background, but a heartfelt belief that what they are doing is right and necessary. This ongoing morality play appears to have severely restricted the responses leaders are willing or able to provide. And police, as the ones who must implement whatever response municipal leaders direct, are thrust into the role of enforcer, with dozens of cellphones dutifully recording every moment of every encounter.

If police are directed to form a barrier in front of some building or other space into which protesters are forbidden entry, and they are spit upon, or are targets for rocks, Molotov cocktails or fireworks, what are their options?

If members of the protest group block traffic, damage property, behave in threatening ways or endanger themselves or others, what are police options?

If it is determined that an arrest should be made and the detainee physically resists, what are police options? (With those helpful videos recording every move.) Of course, it is possible that police actions will please all concerned and earn plaudits from everyone. But if that is not the case, can the police depend on support from city leaders for any painful but necessary actions?

It appears that the law is no longer the gold standard; it yields to the sincerely held beliefs of those who break it.

Deane Looney • St. Louis

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