ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Some local ministers are condemning the police handling of protesters arrested over the weekend at the Galleria shopping mall in Richmond Heights.
Speaking out at the St. Peters AME Church at Margaretta and Shreve, about a dozen ministers — joined by some state lawmakers — say the police had no justification for the way 22 people were arrested at the Galleria.
Social media footage of the arrests shows protesters being chased, tackled and even head-locked by police during what participants say was a peaceful demonstration with no vandalism.
*WARNING: The video below may contain graphic language*
“I am appalled at the fact that police in this city and county feel like they have a right to practice domestic terrorism on the citizens of St. Louis,” said the Rev. Karen Anderson, pastor of Ward Chapel in Florissant, and also the board chair of Metropolitan Congregations United.
Demonstrator Marjorie Theodore says she attended the Galleria protest with her son, who was arrested, and claims the police were the violent ones.
“All of a sudden there was a police whistle and the police rushed us and started grabbing people. My son was probably the fourth, fifth or sixth person who was grabbed,” Theodore said. “Clearly the police took a peaceful situation and committed violence on it.”
The ministers also say they’re concerned about reports that several protesters and mall customers were hurt when they were “body-slammed” by police inside and outside the mall.
Those arrested were reportedly denied their medicine during during the 24-hour hold in the St. Louis County Justice Center, and denied access to their attorneys.
The ministers and state lawmakers are calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar issued a statement before the ministers news conference saying:
“The St. Louis County Police Department has used an incredible amount of discretion during these periods of civil unrest. Citizens have been allowed to exercise their first Amendment Rights; however, when those protests descend into criminal activity, law enforcement has no other choice but to intervene.
Any use of force that occurred at the Galleria Mall on Saturday, September 23, 2017, has been documented and will be reviewed as is the practice and policy of this department.
The individuals arrested and charged during this incident will be the responsibility of the judicial system.
False narratives should not be purported without facts and is not helpful.”