St. Louis Police Officers Shout Chants To Protesters
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Yesterday St. Louis Police arrested more than 80 people after violent protests erupted over the acquittal of a white former police officer, Jason Stockley. Stockley had been charged with murdering a black motorist in 2011. As the police were arresting protesters, officers started chanting at them. The police officers were shouting the words, whose streets, our streets.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch photojournalist David Carson was there when all of this was going down. And he joins us now to talk about what he saw. Hi, David.
DAVID CARSON: Hi. How are you? Thanks for having me.
CHANG: So what exactly happened?
CARSON: So last night, there was a large mass arrest that took place. People refer to this as a kenneling where they group a group of people together and then come in and arrest them. While people were being loaded into the vans, a group of police officers who had conducted the arrests over to the side chanted, whose streets, our streets. And they said it twice.
And there was an AP photographer standing next to me. And at first we both thought it was another group of protesters who were coming to confront the police. And there was no other large group out there to chant like that. And I was like, wow, I think that was the police that chanted that. So we went over, and we asked a group of black people that were staying much closer to the police. They all said, yes, it was the police that chanted that.
CHANG: And how many police officers are we talking that were chanting this?
CARSON: It would be hard for me to say, but it was a chorus of police officers that chanted it.
CHANG: And weren't those the same words the protesters were chanting just last Friday when the verdict came down?
CARSON: Correct. Whose streets, our streets has been a common protest theme and chant since the Ferguson protests three years ago. And you heard that during these protests. You heard during yesterday's protests. And so the police were taking the protesters' chant and turning it back on them.
CHANG: Has the St. Louis Police Department commented at all on these chants by the officers?
CARSON: I have not yet heard of a statement from the St. Louis Police Department. Speaking with several officers out there at the scene, they both voiced their disagreement with the chants to me.
CARSON: Yes, that they didn't think it was right.
CHANG: So you've been there covering the protests the last few days. There have been dozens of arrests so far. Does it feel like there is still a lot of tension on the streets, or has that abated somewhat?
CARSON: The protests in St. Louis are complicated because there are organized protests led by community members here that tend to be peaceful and nonviolent. And then there's always some other people who come in there that are not going to be peaceful. That's been a pattern in Ferguson, where during the daytime in Ferguson, the protests would generally be peaceful. And then at night, under the cover of darkness, some other people would infiltrate in and commit various acts of vandalism.
CHANG: Ferguson is so close by. And I'm wondering, how similar does it feel - what you're seeing now - to what happened back then?
CARSON: So there are some similar people that are leading the current protests that led the protests back in - during Ferguson. St. Louis now has a large and activated protest community that can be readily mobilized for protests when the community feels that there's an issue worth protesting about, so...
CHANG: But the same amount of tension - does that feel quite similar?
CARSON: I don't know if it's the same tension. I think that Ferguson felt a bit more raw because it just came up. This feels a little bit more like the non-indictments announcement in November of Ferguson than the early days of Ferguson because people in St. Louis have been anticipating this announcement for a while, for more than a month. After the trial wrapped up, the judge took about a month to announce his decision. So that is similar in the time between when the grand jury was deciding whether or not it was going to indict Officer Darren Wilson for Michael Brown's shooting.
CHANG: That's David Carson, a photojournalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Thank you for joining us.
CARSON: Thank you.
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