Religious Leaders: Peace Can’t Happen Without Justice

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — The sun was out, the humidity thick and the air borderline sweltering. Kiener Plaza provided no shade but that didn’t stop hundreds of people from across many different faith communities from gathering Tuesday afternoon to pray together.

The event, convened by St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson, drew in leaders from the Catholic, Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths.

“It is easy to give into division, it is easy to give into disorder and anger, and sinful actions,” Carlson told the crowd. “Let our human spirit here in the city of St. Louis be resilient. Let the vision of commitment to a beloved community be a sign of the city of St. Louis that is not easily eroded or lost to the discomfort or injustice or hatred of the moment.”

Carlson convened the leaders in the midst of several straight days of organized protests — all of which have started peaceful, but Friday Saturday and Sunday turned violent at the conclusion of the planned demonstrations. Protesters are taking to the streets to combat what they say is a justice system that works for some people, but not all, in the wake of the Jason Stockley verdict. Stockley, a white former St. Louis police officer, was acquitted late last week in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith, whom officers pursued following a suspected drug deal.

Protesters and attorneys representing Smith’s family say Stockley deliberately killed Smith and planted a gun in Smith’s vehicle. Judge Timothy Wilson said the evidence the state presented didn’t lend itself to a criminal conviction, which requires proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Rev. Karen Anderson, pastor of Ward Chapel AME Church, says it’ll take a lot more than prayer to achieve what she believes is true peace.

“Let’s call for the kind of peace that says all of God’s children matter to God,” Anderson said. “Remember that until black lives matter, we know that nothing really matters.”

Anderson wasn’t talking about justice just in the Stockley case, but she also reminded the crowd of the injustices she sees every day, such as why children in north St. Louis go hungry yet children in other areas of the metropolitan area never do.

Following the more than hour long event, some demonstrators marched down Market Street toward City Hall. There was very little police presence, no one was arrested and no property damage reported.

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