The ACLU of Missouri sent a letter tonight to Mayor Krewson on the intolerable actions of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officers chanting, “Whose Streets? Our Streets!” at a crowd Sunday night.
Read the letter below, or on our website: http://bit.ly/2xcG0Au
Dear Mayor Krewson,
This is a challenging time for St. Louis.
We also have an opportunity for the nation – and world – to see St. Louis with new eyes.
We hope that you will show leadership by making clear the actions of St. Louis Metropolitan Police officers chanting “Whose Streets? Our Streets!” Sunday night are intolerable.
The role of a law enforcement officer is to protect and serve the community. In tension-filled times such as these, they must help people remain calm to preserve public safety.
The words these officers yelled in the face of a crowd were provocative and unprofessional.
Put in the context of the not-guilty verdict of former St. Louis Police officer Jason Stockley, these words become more troubling.
We all are aware of legitimate concerns people have about the way policing of Black men occurs in America. What is undisputed is that while on duty, Stockley said he was going to a kill a Black man, Anthony Lamar Smith. Soon after, he did.
After his acquittal, police officers chanted “Whose Streets? Our Streets!” at the crowd, using the same words that the protesters in St. Louis have been chanting since the 2014 killing of Michael Brown.
Chanting this, in riot gear and tapping their batons, did nothing to encourage peaceful behavior or protect the people of St. Louis – many of whom were in the streets receiving this abuse.
We know you are aware that the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has one of the highest rates of killing people in the nation, according to mappingpoliceviolence.com. Since 2013 through June, St. Louis officers have killed 28 people.
Residents of the St. Louis region not only have a First Amendment right to express their pain and outrage – they also have a legitimate right to question how their police department uses force against them.
Many people see the chanting of, “Whose Streets?” as an attempt to intimidate protestors and raise tensions at the demonstration. Officers have behaved consistently with their chant, by unlawfully and unconstitutionally detaining and arresting people.
We’ve also received reports of officers removing their nametags. We assume any officer who does this is anticipating doing things that are unprofessional, unconstitutional or even criminal. We are also troubled by footage of an officer backing his car into a crowd of people.
We know the eyes of the world are upon St. Louis.
We ask you to make it clear that in St. Louis, our police will protect and serve all.
Let’s show the world that we believe in supporting and empowering the people. We must stand together as a community.
Jeffrey A. Mittman
ACLU of Missouri