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Protesters, Florissant Police Have Another Tense Night

Protesters against police brutality again took to the streets near the Florissant Police Department on Saturday, as tensions again flared between demonstrators and police.

Florissant police in riot gear shouted at protesters to “move back,” and called the gathering an unlawful assembly.

The crowd grew late Saturday as people angry at how police forcefully stopped the previous day's protest took to social media to urge others to come to Florissant.

Police and protesters clashed late Friday and into the morning. In a video posted on Twitter by activist Tony Rice, who uses the handle Search4Swag, police can been seen pushing through protesters and using pepper spray.

Police also made at least three arrests, activists said.

During the day, street medics said they treated many people who were suffering from the effects of pepper spray and said more medics would be needed late Saturday.

Florissant police officials could not be reached for comment.

Activists also painted “Black Lives Matter” on the street in front of the police department late Friday. Less than 12 hours later, a group of white men covered it with blue paint as an officer watched from a patrol car. But later on Saturday, activists repainted the words.”

The protest in Florissant was the latest in which people are demanding that police stop killing Black people. Many also are angry that a now-fired Florissant police officer drove his unmarked police vehicle into a man earlier this month. Authorities have charged former officer Joshua Smith with first-degree assault, assault in the fourth degree and armed criminal action.

Protesters stopped traffic and called for Smith’s conviction. They also said two other officers who were on the scene should be fired and prosecuted. 

The scene grew quiet by about 12:30 a.m., when police returned to the station.

Earlier Saturday, about 100 people marched from the Masjid Bilal mosque at 3843 W. Pine St. to Masjid Al-Mu’minum Islamic Center at 1435 N. Grand Boulevard.

The March, organized by Muslims of Greater St. Louis, was an expression of unity among Muslims of different backgrounds.

Imam Askia Hameed of Masjid Al-Mu’minum said he was inspired to see Muslims from different countries stand with African American Muslims in the fight for equality.

“We want to see solidarity with the immigrant community, which is a long time coming,” he said. “We have to stand up against oppression and injustice no matter where it is.”

But Hameed said given the nation’s long history of racial injustice, there is a need to look beyond police departments — and to the ways that Black Americans are still at a disadvantage in society.

He said many people do not understand how hundreds of years of systemic discrimination have left Black Americans “so far behind.”

“This thing is way bigger than the police,” he said. “They put the knee not just on our physical neck but on our economic system. We can’t get in.”

Follow David on Twitter: @dpcazares Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl 

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David is the health, science and arts & culture editor for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jonathan is the Rolla correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.