Police Tactics Questioned in St. Louis

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Police used a technique called kettling on Sunday night to box in about 100 people at a busy St. Louis intersection and arrest them for failing to disperse. It’s a tactic used to corral a group of people who fail to follow police orders. Police took the action after several windows were broken and concrete planters and trash cans overturned in protests over the not-guilty verdict in the case of former police officer Jason Stockley, accused of murdering Anthony Lamar Smith, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Several of those caught in the box made by rows of officers said police overstepped their bounds, using excessive force and chemical spray on people who were not protesting, including residents trying to get home and members of the media. As police closed in from all sides, they struck their batons in unison on the pavement, in a cadence march.

Activist Tony Rice said he was shocked by the police behavior. “It was the most brutal arrest I’ve ever experienced in my life,” he said. “I thought I was going to die.” He said he could not lie prone on the ground, as ordered, because he had his bike with him. Rice said his neck was being pressed against part of his bike, and he told the officers: “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” Those bused to the jail seemed confused by what was happening. Pedestrians were arrested along with legal observers, protesters, a freelance photographer and a doctor, Rice said. Post-Dispatch reporter Mike Faulk was caught in the kettle. Police blocked three sides of the intersection. Faulk heard the repeated police command, “Move back. Move back.” He had nowhere to go. The police lines moved forward, trapping dozens of people — protesters, journalists, area residents and observers alike. Multiple officers knocked Faulk down and pinned his limbs to the ground. A firm foot pushed his head into the pavement. Once he was subdued, an officer squirted pepper spray in his face.

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