I Was an ACLU Legal Observer During the St. Louis Protests. Here’s What I Saw.

Maleeha Ahmad, a plaintiff in the ACLU of Missouri’s suit against city of St. Louis, was pepper sprayed by police without warning.

ST. LOUIS — Over the last week, I have been on the streets of St. Louis monitoring the police crackdown on protests sparked by the acquittal of Officer Jason Stockley on charges he murdered Anthony Lamar Smith. And though there have been real moments of darkness, I also have seen things that give me hope.

Last weekend, I witnessed St. Louis police department endanger people by using pepper spray and releasing smoke bombs. It was legal observers like me who documented incidents, gathering smoke bomb canisters left in street to bring back to teams of attorneys as evidence. If it wasn't for citizens acting as legal observers, the ACLU of Missouri would not have the evidence it needed to file its suit last Friday over police using chemical agents, interfering with video recording of police activity, making arbitrary arrests, and surrounding and confining people to detain them in what is called “kettling.”

As a legal observer, I report objectively about what I witness. As an organizer, a mom of three kids, and a Black woman, it’s really hard to see all the things that are going on. I’ve watched police form lines around innocent protesters or tap their batons to intimidate people who have nothing in their hands except a Black Lives Matter sign.

I saw a man lie down in the middle of the gathering and tell the crowd, “I feel free.” It was an indescribable moment.

Two nights ago, I went back out on the streets to observe the police. Standing on the corner, I saw one little boy who was about 7 years old followed by a group of kids. He was asking for a gas mask to wear and couldn’t find any. I offered them some extra masks I had in my set of supplies. As they put them on and disappeared into the crowd, I thought about my earliest memories as a 5-year-old. For these kids, these will be their memories of growing up in St. Louis.

People are coming together with incredible solidarity because they feel beat down by the justice system and by what they perceive to be injustice. The outpouring of community protests here is not just about demanding justice for Anthony Lamar Smith, or for Mike Brown in Ferguson, but for the situation that so many Black and brown residents face being overpoliced and criminalized.

The level of support community members offering to each other is tremendous. When almost two dozen people were arrested at the St. Louis Galleria on Saturday, many came together to set up camp outside the jail where people were being sent. They brought coolers of water, pizza, and snacks and waited until people were released from jail.

There’s a sense of urgency and determination. In these past two weeks, clergy members have been arrested and assaulted by police. When Reverend Karla Frye reacted to her grandson getting assaulted by the police, she was put in a chokehold and charged with a felony.

The protesters here know that what they are doing is important and the whole nation is watching. Last Sunday, actor Nick Cannon was in the crowd among protestors shouting, “Whose streets? Our streets.” I felt the energy. I saw a man lie down in the middle of the gathering and tell the crowd, “I feel free.” It was an indescribable moment. This solidarity is creating a sense of safety that is rare to feel.

People in St. Louis are asking themselves an important question: Do I feel Black lives matter? People are waking up to the situation Black people in America are in and waking up to the fight for justice. The strong sentiment here is, we survived Ferguson. We don’t want to be here again, but if we must, we’re going to stay together and support each other.

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Anonymous

You know nothing about Muslims. The only anarchy is being generated by racist sadistic cops who shouldn't be anywhere near law enforcement, let alone mete it out.

Anonymous

"People in St. Louis are asking themselves an important question: Do I feel Black lives matter? "

Do I? Of course I do. Why wont BLM accept the vast vast majority of people are not zealots. We are not racists. We just want to live our lives, and we want people of any color to be able to do the same. But this BS is starting to piss people off.

Chris rock has one of my favorite quotes, he said

“I’d always end up broken down on the highway. When I stood there trying to flag someone down, nobody stopped. But when I pushed my own car, other drivers would get out and push with me. If you want help, help yourself – people like to see that.”

For the love of god, help yourself BLM. If BLM wants to be taken seriously they need get black people to stop killing other black people at staggering rates. WTF are we so focused on a death of 2 black men while HUNDREDS are killed every year!? Why is BLM not calling for the heads of the murderers that roam the STL streets? Why don't we take our signs and protest on the streets of north STL?

Cut the hypocritical BS and maybe BLM can gain some traction. You're becoming white noise.
You're making things worse.

Anonymous

Well said!

Anonymous

So you've missed the huge pushes in the black community to address the criminal violence ? How am I supposed to take your criticism seriously if you aren't paying attention ?

Anonymous

Black people killing black people are criminals. You can't change their behavior with protests. Police officers killing black people are agents of the state, imbued with the power of the state. It's a *much* more serious threat to the lives of black people, because when the state uses it's power to intimidate and abuse a minority, it sends the signal to the whole country that said minority is not going to receive the same rights or protections that white Americans enjoy. It's a challenge to their freedom and it must be fought. America wasn't founded on law and order or preventing all crime, it was founded on the principle that people have a right to rebel when they are mistreated by their government.

Your name

Black people killing black people are criminals. You can't change their behavior with protests. Police officers killing black people are agents of the state, imbued with the power of the state. It's a *much* more serious threat to the lives of black people, because when the state uses it's power to intimidate and abuse a minority, it sends the signal to the whole country that said minority is not going to receive the same rights or protections that white Americans enjoy. It's a challenge to their freedom and it must be fought. America wasn't founded on law and order or preventing all crime, it was founded on the principle that people have a right to rebel when they are mistreated by their government.

RogerKomula

Fight the power.

Anonymous

A great many whites refuse to admit that they are racists so they change the reason for your protests. The racist white cannot handle the reality that they are NOT supreme, that there really are people richer, more intelligent, prettier, more handsome, better figure/physique, etc, than they will ever be. Most whites cannot handle the truth. Especially the one percenters. They certainly do not want to share.

Don't Tread on Me

Do you admit that this statement is overtly racist?

Are people with a lighter certain skin color less beautiful and less intelligent?

Would it be "hate speech" to claim the opposite of your racist view?

Anonymous

Your statement is not based on fact. My experiences of racist people being violent are the two times I was beat by black men while calling me white boy and cracker. I've never seen a white person attack another person over race, even the ones that talk like rascists.

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