ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — Thursday’s demonstration surrounding the verdict in the Jason Stockley case was intended for white participants only.
Organizers say it’s to highlight the fact that there are plenty of white people who also support their cause — and decades of “white silence” have helped continue the pattern of racism in America.
“Do you believe racism doesn’t exist? I believe racism exists, I believe it’s killing people,” said Stephen Houldsworth, who didn’t call himself an organizer of Thursday’s event, but was heard on a bullhorn several times helping people figure out where to go and what to do. “I believe members of the human family are being killed because of racism and white supremacy.”
Houldsworth joined hundreds of other, mainly white, protesters in Kiener Plaza around 6:30, about 90 minutes before Billy Joel took the stage just down the street but while plenty of people were filing past to get into the stadium.
One of the first directives: talk with someone you don’t know; get to know the people around you. There were a few minutes of milling about with people chatting and laughing with one another, exchanging hugs and exchanging ideas.
Around 7, the crowd moved to the east side of Kiener Plaza — across from the Old Courthouse — and lined up, preparing to march. Police did not interfere as the crowd moved into the middle of Broadway, which was still full of cars trying to head south to find parking for the concert. Law enforcement eventually blocked Broadway from Chestnut south to Gratiot, side streets feeding into Broadway were also blocked for a short time.
The protesters stopped in front of Busch Stadium and continued chanting, waving signs and cheering. St. Louis City bicycle police and St. Louis County officers were guarding the barricades — people with tickets to the show were allowed through, but at least one protester without a ticket tried to get past the barricade prompting a brief scuffle. The scuffle quickly ended.
The atmosphere got a little more tense once some of the demonstrators noticed police in personal protective (riot) gear standing a block away at 4th and Spruce. The police marched alongside the demonstrators but stayed on 4th Street.
Billy Joel took the stage shortly after 8:00 — a few minutes later the group marched back up Broadway to Market, where they blocked the intersection for 20-30 minutes. The demonstration ended in song — with demonstrators quietly singing in unison as they left the intersection to walk back across Kiener Plaza.
This protest is one of many that have happened in the St. Louis area over the past week following the not guilty verdict in the case of Jason Stockley, a white former St. Louis police officer who was accused of shooting and killing Anthony Lamar Smith following a police pursuit. The prosecution claimed Stockley made a plan to kill Smith during a pursuit and then followed through with that plan — he was caught on tape saying he was going to kill Smith. The prosecution also contended Stockley planted the gun found in Smith’s car, because the gun had Stockley’s DNA on it but not Smith’s.
The defense countered that the audio recording of Stockley saying that was garbled and not completely intelligible — there were other things he said during that exchange but they couldn’t be heard. Also, the defense said — and the judge agreed — that lack of DNA on the gun doesn’t mean that Smith didn’t touch the gun.
Protests started almost immediately after the ruling was released. Daytime protests have been peaceful but the demonstrations at night on Friday, Saturday and Sunday were not.