Today the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has committed an act of journalism and reported on police activity last weekend. A bit slow, there, but better late than never.
It appears that last Sunday night, some vandals broke some windows and flower pots, and the police conducted a sweep that covered several blocks. Among those arrested were an undercover cop, who was beaten by his own “brothers.” Another was an air force lieutenant who was standing outside his home, watching. Another was a photojournalist working on assignment from Getty Images. Another was one of the stage crew for U2, scheduled to give a concert on September 16, who got caught in the sweep when he stepped out of a bar. This may have something to do with why U2 canceled the concert.
The police were congratulated by their acting police chief, who said they â€œowned tonight,â€ and got praise from Gov. Eric Greitens for their tactics.Â But as more details emergedÂ about heavy-handed police tactics, criticism mounted. A lawyer for the Post-Dispatch condemned the â€œinappropriate and disturbingâ€Â arrest of one of its journalists. A lawsuit on FridayÂ alleged that the police violated peopleâ€™s civil rights. And two top city officials on different days used the word â€œdisturbingâ€ to describe allegations of abusive police.
On Friday, Mayor Lyda Krewson asked the director of public safety to investigate how an undercover officer became bloodied during his arrest Sunday when he was mistaken for a suspect believed to be carrying chemicalsÂ that could be sprayed on officers.
It gets better.
Lt. Alex Nelson, 27, who works in cyberoperations at Scott Air Force Base, was walking around his neighborhood with his wife when they became trapped between quickly closing police lines. He said he was kicked in the face, blinded by pepper spray and dragged away.
â€œItâ€™s our street,â€ he said. â€œI hear the police say it was their street, but itâ€™s literally my street. I have coffee on that street, and I own property on that street. We were not active protesters. We were looking into the neighborhood to observe events that were unfolding.
â€œIâ€™m very sad how they treated me and my wife through the escalation of violence they used on me. It was incredibly unnecessary. Iâ€™ve had training on how to arrest and be arrested, and I capitulated to every demand that was made of me, even before I was on the ground. We were told to move back, and we moved back. We were told to move this way, we moved this way. We obeyed every command that we heard. We were never given an order to disperse. Not once.â€
He said while waiting to be loaded into a police vehicle, he said he was an officer in the military. He said the police officer replied, â€œShut up. Stop. I donâ€™t care.â€
Â William Waldron, part of the U2 crew: “They threw me on the ground and told me I was being arrested,â€ he said. â€œThe guys inside were trying to come out and tell them I was a part of their crew, and police told them if they opened up the door they were going to arrest them.â€
Several people who said they were complying with police orders were pepper sprayed anyway. A number of people — some were taking part in the demonstration, some just happened to be in the area — suffered injuries from being slammed to the ground and dragged around by police. One observer suffered nerve damage from having his hands bound too tightly.
Another observer said,Â â€œAs they told people to disperse, they wouldnâ€™t let people leave. We were there for about 30 minutes, and then the police gave the final warning to disperse, but wouldnâ€™t let people leave. Thatâ€™s when the police started rushing and macing.â€
Fareed Alston of East St. Louis was filming the protests for his company City-Productions and Publishing when he was arrested.
â€œIt was like imminent danger, a wall of police circling around us,â€ Alston said. â€œThey told us to get on the ground and everyone complied. Even as we did that they started pepper spraying us and kicking us to the ground with their foot and taking peopleâ€™s phones.â€
Alston, 28, said as he was being taken to the police van he saw officers giving high fives, taking selfies and smoking cigars.
There is an acting chief of police now because the former oneÂ resigned in April of this year when the newly elected mayor, Lyda Krewson, was sworn into office. Krewson had no role in the Stockley verdict that touched off the recent protests. However, she does need to step up and take charge of the police department, and fast.