Updated at 9:40 p.m. with additional details — Hundreds of “white allies” marched in the streets downtown on Thursday. Their aim was to demonstrate broad support for the protest movement sparked by a judge’s decision to acquit a former police officer of murder.
For more about 90 minutes, a crowd of predominantly white demonstrators expressed solidarity with African-Americans. For the past week, many have protested St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson’s decision to find Jason Stockley, who is white, not guilty of murder in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man.
Continuing the strategy of protest organizers to direct demonstrators' concerns toward those for whom systemic injustice is not an issue, the crowd marched from Kiener Plaza to Busch Stadium, where thousands had gathered for an 8 p.m. concert by singer Billy Joel.
Carrying “Black Lives Matter” signs, the crowd yelled out Smith’s name and chanted, “No justice, no concerts,” in part a likely reference to recently canceled shows by U2 and Ed Sheeran.
“The importance of integrating the economic disturbance into these protests is to show the link between the economic oppression that happens with the oppression at all levels of black people within this city,” said Brian Colson, 33. “You can’t disentangle the violence at the hands of the police from the economic system when you look at the dehumanization of black people in our culture.”
About half an hour after the Billy Joel concert started, the protesters reversed their march and returned to the intersection of Broadway and Market where they blocked traffic in both directions.
Wes Schnitker asked those who had decided to join a protest for the first time to raise their hands, prompting some to do so to applaud.
"Nine people have been killed this year in St. Louis,” Schnitker said through a megaphone to the mostly white crowd. “This is more than a moment, it’s a movement. We need your numbers … With you, [the police] a little more scared. We need you for the movement."
That message resonated with white members of the crowd, among them, Danielle Zoll, a native of Champaign, Illinois, who has lived in St. Louis for seven years.
Zoll, 30, said she has been at every protest since Sunday to add her voice to those calling for a world without discrimination.
“I believe that there has been a lot of injustices going on, not only in the city of St. Louis, but all around America. I think it’s absolutely horrible that people are still treated unequally,” she said. “And I think that I need to stand up for the different things that I’m able to have that other people aren’t because of the color of my skin.”
Zoll added that the systemic violence that confronts black people is one of the city’s biggest problems.
“African-Americans are getting killed by police and nothing is happening. They’re not getting the justice they deserve,” she said. “Regardless if they have a bad background or not, I don’t believe that anyone deserves to be killed.”
After the protest, some in the crowd returned to Kiener Plaza.
Original story from Sept. 21
After six days of mostly African-American crowds protesting to St. Louis Circuit Court Judget Timothy Wilson’s decision to acquit former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of murder, a different demonstration is happening tonight.
Protest leaders called on white allies to gather at Kiener Plaza Park Thursday to show solidarity with their black neighbors.
Hundreds of people arrived for the 6:30 p.m. rally, some holding “Black Lives Matter” signs. After a while, they began chanting, “White silence is violence,” “No justice, no peace” and “No justice, no profits.”
Among the marchers was Jay Moore, of Webster Groves. He said he felt compelled to show his support for African-Americans in St. Louis.
"I'm not directly affected by a lot of the actions of the police and a lot of the actions that are important to the Black Lives Matter movement," said Moore, 43. "But just because I'm not personally affected doesn't mean I don't care about these issues."
People have taken to the streets to express outrage at St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson's decision to find Stockley, who is white, not guilty of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, who was black.
Thursday's demonstration took marchers from Kiener Plaza down South Broadway toward Busch Stadium, where Billy Joel was set to perform at 8 p.m.
"We don't see no riot here. Why are you in riot gear?" people in the crowd chanted at police wearing helmets. The officers stood behind barricades that had been placed in the street to block off the sidewalks outside of Busch Stadium.
As the crowd approached the stadium, the crowd chanted "No justice, no concerts," "Say his name — Anthony Lamar Smith" and "Black lives are under attack. What do we do? Stand up. Fight back."
It was uncertain whether the white allies rally would be Thursday's main protest event, as in the past few days protest leaders have sent marchers to other locations.
This week, a protest planned for the Delmar Loop was diverted to downtown St. Louis and another announced for downtown Clayton was moved to the Galleria mall.
Police encouraged fans to arrive early at the stadium for the concert.
Earlier Thursday, a group of about 75 people gathered near the southwest corner of Forest Park.
Melissa Mckinnies and a few other protest organizers led the group west on Clayton Avenue to the Cheshire Inn, on the opposite corner of the intersection.
Protesters chanted “No justice, no profits” as they circled the hotel pool. Then they went inside the hotel, where some demonstrators knocked on the doors of hotel rooms.
Mckinnies said the protesters would continue to send a consistent message that St. Louis needs to prevent police officers from killing black people.
“I want them to stop acting like we’re the enemies,” she said. “Black people are not the enemies.”
Protesters briefly blocked traffic at the intersection of Skinker Boulevard and Clayton Avenue. After police announced that the demonstration was an “unlawful assembly” the group continued walking back to Forest Park and dispersed.