St. Louis Protesters And Police Exchange Rocks And Pepper Spray, 17 Arrested

Just days after another controversial shooting death of a young, African-American male by a police officer in St. Louis, protesters were butting heads with law enforcement officials. Though protests in the St. Louis area have been a regular occurrence since the early August shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, the newest round of community anger is centered on a more recent shooting.

Vonderrit Myers, Jr. was shot about five to seven times and by an off-duty police officer in the St. Louis neighborhood of Shaw on the evening of October 8. He died of a gunshot wound to the head, according to a preliminary autopsy report. Myers was seen on a surveillance video in a store just minutes before the shooting buying a turkey sandwich.

The video shows Myers enter and exit the store several times, and stand at the counter for a long period of time. His pants were buckled very low, exposing his boxer shorts, and there was no sign that he had a weapon on him.

Protesters in the area immediately took to the streets after the shooting, but it wasn’t until the wee hours of Saturday night that things took a violent turn for both police officers and protesters. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson took to Twitter almost immediately to condemn protesters.

Other messages from his account also said that St. Louis protesters were “attempting to storm Quicktrips.” During past protests in the summer, some similar mini-marts were damaged and looted. Dotson later stated via his Twitter account that protesters had turned on the police and were throwing things at them.

Despite his depiction, the Washington Post reported that the protest was a choreographed sit-in aimed specifically to be an act of civil disobedience, and not random criminal behavior. There were 17 arrests, and Dotson’s spokesperson said that the police chief was hit with a rock. The store is near the location where Myers was shot last week.

There were also reports that police doused protesters with pepper spray, and photos of at least one teary-eyed man on social media who said he was at the scene. Overall, it was not an all-out call for anyone and everyone to join, but rather a carefully planned activity that was limited to a select few St. Louis protesters that is part of a movement called “Ferguson October.”

Ferguson October is a month of organized protests against a police state in the U.S., put together by groups that include Organization for Black Struggle, Hands Up United, and others. The St. Louis protesters caught up in the melee with police on Saturday night appear to have been part of that organized movement.

[Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]