St. Louis ‘on edge’ waiting for riots to break out tomorrow

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St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said the city is “on edge” waiting to hear the verdict in the first-degree murder trial of former Police Officer Jason Stockely. He is accused of killing an un-armed motorist after a police chase back in 2011, and then planting a gun to make it look like self-defense.

“I do not know when the verdict will come out and I don’t know what the verdict will be… The judge has not said how much time he’s going to give,” Krewson stated in a press conference.

St. Louis police officers plan to go to 12-hour shifts on Friday in anticipation of possible riots. The department said Thursday the decision to do so came “after talking with city leaders” to “ensure the department is ready for any events that may unfold and to ensure a safe environment for our community.”

“We want to ensure the community that our police department is prepared for any scenario,” the department said in a statement. “In the wake of an announcement, the department is committed to keeping our citizens updated and informed.”

Krewson recalled Ferguson in her comments, regarding the justifiable fear that the same kind of violence will be visited upon the streets of St. Louis as soon as the verdict is read.

“The worry and anxiety we are feeling today is not without cause, and it did not start with Ferguson,” she said. “It has its roots in the story of our country. I hope we will all learn more about the laws and policies that closed the doors for some, while leaving them open for others.”

“We now live in a time where the tensions caused by those laws and those policies affect us all in our daily lives,” Krewson continued. “It affects us in different ways, but we must all recognize and address the history that is present at our feet.”

Hoping for the best, but apparently expecting the worst, Krewson reminded the public that those who may riot do so because they are hurting.

“These are our neighbors, our fellow citizens, our co-workers. Without all of us working to acknowledge and understand this history — how we hurt, how we heal and how we help each other — we won’t grow as individuals, as a community, as a city, or as a region,” she said.

Krewson went on to defend rioting by explaining how it happens, stating, “We’re are on edge because we have watched, in this country and in our region, that legal decisions can and do result in families and sometimes entire communities being left without a sense of justice. That can and has resulted in protests and demonstrations.”

Meanwhile on Thursday, barricades went up around the Thomas F. Eagleton Federal Courthouse in downtown St. Louis, and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens took preliminary steps to activate the Missouri National Guard.

“As Governor, I am committed to protecting everyone’s constitutional right to protest peacefully while also protecting people’s lives, homes, and communities,” Greitens said in a statement. “Taking the steps to put the Missouri National Guard on standby is a necessary precaution.”

The National Guard, according to officials, may be needed “to help protect critical infrastructure and free up civilian law enforcement to protect people’s right to protest peacefully.”

Anthony Lamar Smith
Anthony Lamar Smith and his daughter in a family photo.

According to the St. Louis Dispatch, Stockley, who is white, fatally shot Anthony Lamar Smith, who is black, after a police chase on Dec. 20, 2011.

Prosecutors have alleged Stockley planted a .38-caliber revolver in Smith’s crashed Buick after shooting him five times at close range. The defense has said that Stockley shot Smith in self-defense, because Stockley believed Smith was reaching for a gun.

Krewson implored residents to have a more sympathetic outlook on the expected rioting, pleading, “Please don’t let the anxiety, the worry, and the pain determine how we treat each other. Try to understand the reactions of others. Be open to what we don’t understand in others’ reactions. Ask ourselves how we might feel if it were our son, daughter, mother, father, or friend at the center of this legal decision. Ask ourselves if we can turn this anxiety and distrust into something constructive.”

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