In what was slated as a peaceful “March to the Arch” by Ferguson demonstrators, more than two dozen people were arrested and pepper spray was used by police in St Louis, Missouri on Wednesday. The melee unfolded as protesters tried to storm the St. Louis Metropolitan Police headquarters building.
About seventy-five people marched through the downtown area and eventually went to police headquarters. There, with the building on lockdown, the group took the opportunity to rush an open door. Several people pushed in.
Upon entry, protesters read a list of demands to department officials. Those demands included a meeting with Chief Sam Dotson, Mayor Slay and Board of Aldermen President, Lewis Reed. They also requested an immediate termination of Officer’s Hayes and Flannery. They want amnesty for protesters who have been charged with non-violent offenses, the creation of a diverse Citizens Review Board with subpoena power and a seven day release of all information regarding police shootings, not limited to transparent release of all unedited videos and audio.
Activist Deray McKesson posted several Vine videos and images via Twitter as the demonstration took place.
Protesters also placed “Eviction Notices” along type outside of the building.
Signed, ‘We the People,’ the notices read: “We are informing you that the police department is scheduled to be reclaimed by its citizens today, December 31, 2014.” Protesters also outlined reasons why they feel a power shift should take place.
Among the reasons listed were “perpetrating police brutality on our citizenry” and “transforming the police force into a militarized occupying force.”
There was quite a bit of pushing and shoving as police tried to clear the demonstrators out, with officers eventually resorting to the use of pepper spray to push the crowd back.
Five people were arrested in the initial scuffle. Police chief Sam Dotson says officers were justified in clearing the group out of the lobby.
“We’re a public building, we’re open. But we’re open for legitimate business. We’re not open for people to come in and push their own agendas and disrupt the business that has to go on here.”
Protesters were critical of police use of pepper spray, many saying things escalated too quickly, with one “live streamer” who had been hit saying it was happening too often.
“This is becoming too commonplace now. I don’t know,” the man told photojournalist Doug Larsen.
Police say all those calls are already met, or on the way to being met, and that protesters are now distracting them from other work with repetitious demands.
“The forty or fifty officers that it took to handle the disturbance that was going on outside police headquarters weren’t in our neighborhoods doing the job our citizens have asked them to do,” Chief Dotson said. “That’s a big deal.”
ST. LOUIS (KTVI)