St. Louis faith leaders urge peace, justice amid turmoil

CORRECTS TO SERVICE-Clergy pray together during in an interfaith prayer service calling for peace and solidarity at Kiener Plaza on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, in St. Louis. Leaders of several faiths on Tuesday called for peace and justice amid the turmoil that followed the acquittal of a white former St. Louis police officer in the 2011 death of a black man. (Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Leaders of several faiths on Tuesday called for peace and justice amid the turmoil that followed the acquittal of a white former St. Louis police officer in the 2011 death of a black man.

Several hundred people gathered on a hot, unshaded public plaza for an interfaith service followed by a march to City Hall. The service came after four days of protests that followed a judge’s decision Friday to acquit Jason Stockley of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith. Speakers at the service included Roman Catholic Archbishop Robert Carlson, black church pastors, and Jewish and Muslim leaders.

“Let us remember that we are not a divided humanity, but a human family,” Carlson said. “Let us show love instead of hatred.”

Several who spoke acknowledged the pain the ruling caused African-Americans in the community.

“Justice, fair treatment ought to be the right of all God’s children,” said the Rev. Linden Bowie of the Missionary Baptist State Convention.

More than 150 people have been arrested in the protests since Friday. No organized demonstrations were planned for Tuesday, protest leaders said.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson on Tuesday said she’s planning to meet with protesters.

Hundreds attended a rally Monday night outside the jail in downtown St. Louis. Demonstrators chanted “free our people” to show solidarity for those jailed. On Sunday night, 123 people were arrested after a smaller group of protesters that remained on the streets after the more organized demonstrations wrapped up broke business windows downtown, smashed concrete pots and threw things at officers.

Police officers chanted “Whose streets? Our streets!” after making arrests. At a news conference Tuesday, Krewson said it wasn’t acceptable for them to chant the refrain — one protesters commonly use. She said police are under a lot of stress but “that’s not an excuse.”

The mayor also said it was “inflammatory” for interim police Chief Lawrence O’Toole to say that “police owned” Sunday night.

The unrest was reminiscent of three years ago, when sometimes-violent protests lasted for months after a white officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, fatally shot Michael Brown, a black and unarmed 18-year-old. Officer Darren Wilson was not charged but eventually resigned, and the shooting became a catalyst for the national Black Lives Matter movement.

The shooting of Smith by Stockley came after a chase on Dec. 20, 2011. Stockley, 36, testified he felt endangered because he saw Smith holding a silver revolver when Smith backed his car toward the officers before speeding away, prompting the chase.

Prosecutors said Stockley planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shooting. The officer’s DNA was on the weapon but Smith’s wasn’t. Dashcam video from Stockley’s cruiser recorded him saying he was “going to kill this (expletive).” Less than a minute later, he shot Smith five times.

Stockley’s lawyer dismissed the comment as “human emotions” during a dangerous pursuit.

Stockley left the police department and moved to Houston three years ago.

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