Protests Continue in St. Louis Following Jason Stockley’s Acquittal

Former Police Officer Killed Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011

St Louis protest
Protests in St. Louis, Missouri. (File)

Protests have continued in St. Louis, Missouri, following the September 15 acquittal of Jason Stockley, a White former police officer who shot and killed a 24-year old Black man, Anthony Lamar Smith, in 2011.

Insisting that he acted in self-defense in the December 2011 altercation with Smith, Stockley pleaded not guilty and requested for his verdict to be decided by a judge instead of a jury. Prosecutors cited dashcam footage showing Stockley saying, “I’m going to kill this mother***er, don’ t you know it” and then open fire and hit Smith five times after a three-minute police chase.

While Stockley claimed that he acted in self-defense after seeing Smith holding a gun, prosecutors argued that Stockley had planted the gun in the vehicle after the shooting, citing forensic testing of the gun that only found Stockley’s DNA. At the conclusion of the trial, St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson acquitted Stockley of all charges.

These continuing protests stand within a long stream of activism against systemic injustices in St. Louis and its suburbs that fanned into flame after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson over three years ago.

Among protest organizers were Pastor Cori Bush of the Frontline movement, Missouri Rep. Bruce Franks, Jr., and Pastor Darryl Gray. These activists see St. Louis as the “new Selma”—hearkening back to the civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s in Selma, Alabama. Their hope and aim for these demonstrations is to not only bring attention to the injustices in their neighborhoods, but to seek redress and justice throughout the nation, they told The Associate Press.

Also visibly present among demonstrators was local activist and worship leader Michelle Higgins, director of advocacy group Faith for Justice. Higgins, who also serves as Director of Worship and Outreach at South City Church, was among those who have been arrested.

In response to demonstrations, police officers have mobilized in full-riot gear—even in instances of no riots—and arrested over 300 protestors within 18 days following Stockley’s acquittal. These and similar actions of the St. Louis Police Department have been criticized as being “unlawful and unconstitutional,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri. The ACLU of Missouri has subsequently filed a lawsuit against the St. Louis Police Department, citing the use of chemical agents, obstruction of filming police actions, and other rights violations.

Stockley’s exoneration is yet another piece of a growing narrative of police shooting acquittals around the nation, including the police officers who were on trial for the deaths of Philando Castile, Sylville Smith, Trayvon Martin and many others. This also does not factor in many instances when police officers have never stood trial for the deaths of civilians.

Bush of the Frontline movement voices the sentiments and resolve of those involved in demonstrations throughout St. Louis: “Change hasn’t happened yet… That tells us we have to keep pushing.”

Photo by amir


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    Newbie

    Written by Timothy I. Cho

    Timothy Isaiah Cho is an Associate Editor at Faithfully Magazine. Timothy enjoys reading, discussing and writing on topics related to racial justice, diversity, social justice and Christian engagement in society. He received a Master of Divinity from Westminster Seminary California and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from U.C. Berkeley. Email: timothy.cho (at) faithfullymagazine.com

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