City, police face multiple civil rights lawsuits from 2017 protesters

By Gabriel Neves | Oct 4, 2018

In September 2017, scores of people protested the acquittal of St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith.   Paul Sableman via Wikicommons

ST. LOUIS –– On the one-year anniversary of their arrests, fourteen protesters filed almost as many lawsuits against the city and 11 police officers alleging civil rights violations during demonstrations against police brutality in 2017.

The lawsuits stem from the actions of police officers against those protesting the acquittal of St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith. The plaintiffs claim they are all demonstrators who were caught in a police "kettle," a corralling tactic that ended with officers using pepper spray and batons. 

The incident took place on Sept. 17, the third night of protests after Stockley's acquital on murder charges.

The St. Louis-based nonprofit ArchCity Defenders and civil rights law firm Khazaeli Wyrsch represent the plaintiffs. Independent filmmakers, U.S. military officers, college students and nonprofit workers are among those suing, according to a statement released by the firm.

“This region is no stranger to protest, and yet, it seems that we simply cannot learn from our mistakes," Blake Strode, executive director of ArchCity Defenders, said in a statement. "The answer to robust, lawful protest is not violent crackdowns and military-style tactics by police. The kettling arrests of peaceful civilians that took place one year ago constituted a gross violation of the law and abuse of state power, and there are real human beings who suffered as a result.”

ArchCity Defenders already filed a restraining order against the police department for unlawful use of chemical agents during a previous protest. 

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Arch City Defenders Khazaeli Wyrsch St. Louis Metropolitan Police

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