Chicago (AFP) – Criticism of police response to protests in St Louis intensified Monday, as local leaders called for an investigation of alleged abuses and more stories emerged of questionable arrests.
Police and protesters clashed again over the weekend at a mall in a suburb of the Midwestern US city, where there were clashes last week between city police and downtown protesters.
Stories once again emerged in US media of questionable tactics employed Saturday, this time among county, as opposed to city, police officers in charge of suburban law enforcement.
Police were accused of indiscriminate use of pepper spray and arresting people who were not demonstrating at the mall, including shoppers simply passing by.
Also among the arrested was an undercover police officer caught up along with other corralled protesters and left with a bloody lip in the process, according to the St Louis Post-Dispatch.
“Approx. 150 people adhered to dispersal warnings and peacefully left prior to 22 arrests being made,” the St Louis County police said on Twitter, adding, “Lot of positive feedback from businesses and patrons after peace was restored.”
Faith leaders and elected officials expressed outrage Monday over “egregious actions” by police and demanded an investigation.
“We are not anti-law enforcement, but we are against extreme police tactics that can only be explained as a police riot,” state representative Stacey Newman said at a news conference.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued St Louis on Friday, accusing city police of misconduct during earlier protests — including illegal arrests and improper use of pepper spray.
Days of sometimes violent protests were sparked by the September 15 acquittal of a white police officer in the fatal shooting of a black man.
St Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, responding to intensifying public criticism, said Friday she would support strengthening civilian oversight of police, along with other changes.
“The core of what I’ve heard over the past week is a call for increased accountability,” Krewson said in written remarks.