St. Louis Police Are Now Under Federal Investigation For Violating Protesters’ Civil Rights

This week, the FBI and the Justice Department opened investigations into the conduct of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officers for unconstitutional actions during protests in September. The federal investigation is just the latest in a string of actions by courts and community leaders to hold the St. Louis police accountable for its systemic abuses of power.

The federal investigation centers on allegations of civil rights violations by law enforcement officers when the community expressed its outrage, pain, and grief in protests after the September acquittal of police officer Jason Stockley in the killing of Anthony Lamar Smith. Police pepper-sprayed protestors and bystanders without warning, even spraying some people in the face when they were sitting on the ground with their hands zip-tied. Officers interfered with people recording police activities in photos and on video. Police also unlawfully detained people during a kettling incident in downtown St. Louis.

The ACLU of Missouri sued the city for this police misconduct. In our suit, we asked for the court to protect the people whose rights were violated and whose rights could be violated again. It took three days of testimony and 18 witnesses to tell the stories of what hundreds of people at protests experienced on the streets of St. Louis: systemic constitutional violations and retaliatory actions by police officers.

In a win for the people of St. Louis and for the First Amendment, a federal judge granted our preliminary injunction on Nov. 15, requiring police to immediately adopt protocols to prevent mass deprivation of people’s constitutional rights. Under the protocols, the city of St. Louis cannot declare an “unlawful assembly” unless there is an imminent threat of violence. It also cannot declare an “unlawful assembly” for the purpose of punishing people for exercising their First Amendment rights. And police may not use chemical agents against nonviolent protestors in the absence of probable cause for an arrest or use chemical agents to disperse protestors or as punishment for protesting.

This is a win for the constitutional rights of the people of St. Louis, particularly communities of color. St. Louis is one of the nation’s most racially segregated cities, where ZIP codes separated by only a few miles can mean an 18-year difference in life expectancy. The city’s residents also confront the deadliest police force in the United States. St. Louis police kill people at a higher rate than any police department among the nation’s 100 most populous cities, according to data gathered from January 2013 to June 2017.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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