Why People Are Still Protesting In St. Louis

Ryan J. Reilly

ST. LOUIS ― Demonstrators protested in St. Louis for the fourth night on Monday, outraged over the not-guilty verdict for Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis cop who’d been charged with murder in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith.

A protester stands outside the Justice Center in St. Louis on Monday evening.

Protesters initially gathered at the Delmar Loop, an entertainment district just outside the city, where some individuals had smashed windows during a demonstration on Saturday night. But organizers redirected the crowd to the Justice Center in downtown St. Louis, where some of those arrested during Sunday night’s demonstrations ― most on low-level misdemeanors for allegedly failing to disperse ― were being held for up to 24 hours.

Despite heavy rain, protesters demonstrated for hours outside the Justice Center, which is across the street from City Hall. The night ended peacefully.

Protesters gather on Monday outside the St. Louis City Justice Center, where demonstrators arrested the prior night were still being held.

We asked several protesters what brought them out on the fourth night of protests in St. Louis.

Responses have been edited for length, clarity and style.

Reginald, a St. Louis resident.

Reginald

Justice. We demand it. The reason why we’re all here is it’s a cause that’s bigger than any of us, really. If they get one of us, then they get all of us. ... We’re out here because we’re tired of the injustice, we’re tired of being oppressed, we’re tired of being harassed, we’re tired of being killed. And we’re letting the system know you don’t have this power over us anymore. You’re going to stop killing us. We’re going to get justice. It’s just that simple.

I will say that, for what it’s worth, the conversation has started, and that’s the beginning—we’ve got to get the conversation started. For years, we didn’t have the conversation started. For years, we were all just kept quiet. We were told to be quiet. We were told to just let it go. We were told to forget. We were told to just turn the other cheek.

We ran out of cheeks to turn. Both sides, both our asses, so we’re out of cheeks. One way or another, we’re going to have this conversation, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you. Us refusing to be silent is not going to make you feel comfortable.

L.B., 24, and Kimberly Ann Collins, 25.

L.B. and Kimberly Ann Collins

L.B.: I’m here not only for Anthony, but for Michael. I’m here for my brothers. I’m here for the men and women that are in my community that I walk past and then one day they’re up and gone. I’m here for all of them. ... We all matter. All black lives matter, man, woman, child, it does not matter ...

We have new elected officials, we have those who are younger, those who understand because they are younger. We have those who know, because they are here, they have lived here, they are black men. They know. They know. Those who came before us, they tried. They tried. Did not work. But we have those now who understand because they live it. They live it every single day. ... They grew up in it, and they never wavered.

We ran out of cheeks to turn. Reginald, St. Louis resident

Collins: I’m out here because black lives matter in the rain, the snow, the sleet and the hail, the earthquakes and the thunderstorms. That’s why I’m out here.

I don’t condone the vandalism. I don’t condone the looters. But at the same time, I understand people are angry and people are trying to channel their anger out. It’s coming to that point where people are tired, they’re frustrated, they’re upset nothing is working. You do all this protesting, you do all this marching, and you want to see change. We have yet to see change for the justice system in our country. We’re just tired and fed up. ...

There’s a long ... tradition of freedom fighters, of people that have marched, civil rights leaders, activists that have marched. We don’t want to stop that momentum, we don’t want to stop that at all. We’re going to keep going. Whether it’s 2017, 2020, 2040, we’re going to be marching in 2060. ... I’ll be out here marching, I’m going to keep that legacy alive. 

St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Ellyia Green.

Megan Ellyia Green

Green is alderwoman for St. Louis’ 15th Ward.

I think as long as the people are out here, us as elected officials need to be out here, and as long as it takes to get change. From all the arrests that happened last night, we need change. And we’re not seeing city government right now step up to the plate. 

I think a lot of people see it as complicated, that elected officials understand police reform, but there’s also this hesitancy to really be critical of the police. Especially in a high-crime city, I think people are afraid that police won’t police their wards, that they won’t get city services into that area if they show support for this.

Eli LaChance outside the St. Louis City Justice Center on Monday.

Eli LaChance

LaChance was the first protester arrested during demonstrations over the Stockley verdict on Friday, when police officers pulled him off his bike. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department claimed he was “damaging” a police vehicle driving behind him. LaChance said the vehicle was closely following protesters and he didn’t make any contact with it.

Jason Stockley wasn’t convicted of murder. They arrested one of my friends last night for trying to leave. It’s not acceptable. The cops turned into an armed gang last night. They were antagonistic, they are the aggressors, and that’s the problem.

Mike Price, a 24-year-old arrested Sunday, hugs a friend as he walks out of the St. Louis City Justice Center after his release Monday.

Michael Price

Price, who was arrested Sunday night, was released from jail Monday night while protesters gathered outside. This was his first arrest. He said protesters were arrested inside a police kettle (police surrounded the protesters and locked everyone up) and described what it was like in jail.

Everyone kept describing it like they “Game of Thrones-ed”  everyone, getting on all four sides and blocking them in ...

They wouldn’t give anyone any phone calls. Every place that there was a phone, they were collect-call only. ... They just kept saying, ‘The phone’s broken, the phone’s broken.’ Moved us around from tank to tank to tank all day long.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.