Dozens of protesters took to the streets Thursday night to protest the killing of black teenager Vonderrick Myers by a white, off-duty St. Louis police officer. As they chanted and marched, police blocked off Grand Avenue, a main thoroughfare in St. Louis. At one point, protesters burned an American flag to symbolize the betrayal they feel about so many young Black people losing their lives at the hands of police officers. Protesters were fearless and firm in their demands that Black lives be valued and respected and that cops stop killing their peers.
Despite showing restraint Wednesday night, St. Louis police officers were in full riot gear with shields and batons Thursday. Two reporters who were livestreaming were pepper sprayed and confronted directly by officers. Hip hop artist Tef Poe, who has been a leader during the protests in Ferguson, was also pepper sprayed. Other protesters were kettled by officers and then pepper sprayed.
At least three protesters reported receiving physical injuries from cops from being hit. One of the protesters hospitalized was Tory Russell, whose Twitter handle is @HotepTNT. When fellow protesters tried to visit him at Saint Louis University Hospital, they were not allowed. According to Tef Poe, Russell’s hospital room was guarded by three police officers. Another person hospitalized from being beaten up by officers was a member of Lost Voices, a group of young protesters from Ferguson.
Despite the Department of Justice demanding that officers in St. Louis and surrounding jurisdictions where identification, multiple officers were photographed and filmed with no name badges on their uniforms.
By 1 a.m. police were ordering protesters to move from the street to the sidewalk or face arrest. Protesters attempted to negotiate with officers stating that they would leave if the police left first. Protesters also requested the presence of Police Chief Dotson who did arrive at the protest site and chose to speak with one of the male protest leaders.
Despite their attempts at negotiations, protesters were rushed at by police using their shields and then pepper sprayed multiple times. After continuing to rush them, police cornered protesters into Tower Grove Park, police then announced that the park was closed and advised protesters to return to their vehicles immediately or face arrest. Since protesters were kettled by the cops’ maneuvers, many were unable to leave and were arrested for failing to disperse. Some protesters reported being chased by police in the park.
Protesters who were not part of the group trapped in the park were unable to see what was going on. Some were able to retreat to MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse on the corner of Arsenal and Grand, and the owner offered help to those who had been pepper sprayed. Once on the property, protesters advised police that they were not unlawfully assembled because they were on private property.
Protesters and police began to disperse around 2 a.m. as rain began to fall.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.