Cops Union Urges Harassment Of Pizza Shop After Owner Criticizes Police Tactics

ST. LOUIS ― Chris Sommers was pissed. The owner of Pi Pizzeria had been handing out cups of water at one of his restaurants in the city’s Central West End on Friday night, hours after a judge declared a former St. Louis cop not guilty in the 2011 killing of a black man fleeing a drug stop. Sommers wanted to calm the protesting crowd, to put a human face on his business, maybe to keep someone from smashing his windows.

When it looked like the protests had mainly passed, Sommers prepared to head home. But as he got in the car, he saw police officers with gas masks and shields marching down an empty street toward his business. He ran back to the restaurant. One of the officers, he said, began “indiscriminately” shooting off pepper balls, a less lethal form of crowd control that hits with a sting and explodes with a burn.

Sommers started filming. He got mad. He yelled. He lost his shit, in his words. Police tossed a tear gas canister at him. Someone nearby picked it up and threw it back. The cops came running. Sommers barely managed to close the door to his restaurant in time to keep them out. Tear gas seeped inside, and he sent everyone home.

“You generally want to be friendly with the police,” Sommers told HuffPost in an interview around lunchtime on Wednesday. “And then they shoot at you.”

Sommers isn’t the kind of guy you’d expect to get into a conflict with the police. He has St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s cell number. He gives police a 50 percent discount. He has donated to law enforcement groups. He considered himself a police supporter, even though, he said, St. Louis cops never seemed to solve any of the crimes occasionally committed against his restaurants.

But Sommers’ accusations of police misconduct during the weekend protests kicked off a chain of events that led to employees fielding harassing phone call after harassing phone call at his restaurants on Wednesday. On Twitter, he’d used the term “dimwits” to describe officers who chanted “Whose streets? Our streets” on Sunday night after they arrested people downtown, in a sweep that led to peaceful demonstrators and a couple of journalists spending up to 24 hours in jail.

Blue Lives Matter, a right-leaning retort to the Black Lives Matter movement that has grown on Facebook and morphed into a pro-police news site, didn’t like what Sommers had said. Someone wrote up a critical post on Tuesday. The St. Louis County Police Association posted that story on Facebook, along with phone numbers for Pi Pizzeria’s various locations, and urged supporters to call the restaurant if their “freedom of speech needs a little exercise.” (The police association appears to have since deleted the Facebook post.)

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