Elected officials, faith leaders call for DOJ investigation after Galleria arrests

Elected officials and faith leaders are calling for a Department of Justice investigation into the use of force by police during a protest at the Galleria.

Some elected officials and faith leaders demanded a Department of Justice investigation Monday into what happened at a protest inside of the St. Louis Galleria Mall over the weekend.

The St. Louis County Police Department and others are facing criticism after claims they used excessive force during the protest and also denied people medication and representation once they were taken to the County jail.

In a press conference held at St. Peters AME Church, the group also demanded the Missouri General Assembly and St. Louis County council conduct an investigation. They say if they don’t get justice, there will be no peace.

"We will continue to disturb your peace, we will continue to make you uncomfortable," said Bruce Franks, a state representative for the 78th district.

“I do not understand how if you go to training to learn to de-escalate situations, when you go through training that is supposed to help you control your emotions and when you enter a situation, none of that matters,” said Karen Anderson from the Ward Chapel AME Church.

There were 22 arrests made on Saturday during the protest at the mall. Police said protesters became destructive and mall management wanted them to be removed. St. Louis County police said the protesters threw trash cans at officers and blocked the escalators.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told 5 On Your Side in a statement:

“Citizens have been allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights; however, when those protests descend into criminal activity, law enforcement has no other choice but to intervene.”

But, the group of faith leaders and elected officials, who were told about what happened by those at the protest, deny any of that took place. They also claim the arrests were too aggressive and labeled what happened a “police riot”. But, their outrage also comes after video showed a 13-year-old boy and his grandmother, who was later identified as Karla Frye, in handcuffs.

"There is no excuse for jumping on the back of an officer no matter the circumstances," a spokesperson for the St,. Louis County Police Department told 5 On Your Side in response to the arrest of Karla Frye and her grandson. 

One St. Louis County Police officer was taken to an area hospital for a back injury. Two protesters suffered minor scrapes while being taken into custody. Charges of those arrested ranged from trespassing, rioting, resisting arrest and assault on a law enforcement officer.

"This cannot be acceptable," said Stacey Newman, a Missouri lawmaker.

“And everybody that stands by and allow this to continue to happen,” said Edmund Lowe from the St. Louis-Cape Girardeau District of the A.M.E. Church. “The blood of the struggle is on our hands.

Central Reform Congregation’s Rabbi Susan Talve and others claim the people who were arrested were also treated unfairly. Rabbi Talve said people were denied representation and medications.

"So on Saturday night, when we were there trying to make sure people would get their medicines, we had elected officials, judges, we had everyone trying to help the people inside and the police were in charge," Talve said.

County Police said they have no control over the process at the Justice Center and once they enter the jail, the people are no longer their responsibility. 

They’ve now called for a local, state and federal investigation, hoping police will be held accountable.

"Those of us as elected officials will be continuing to file some complaints all up the ladder," said Newman.

"We are here to say that we demand investigations. We are here to say that we are going to stand up for our rights,” said Rev. Steven Shepard of the St. Peters AME Church. 

And if justice isn’t served, they said protests will continue for the foreseeable future.

"If we don't get it, shut it down. If we don’t get it, shut it down, Amen." Cassandra Gould said leading chants before the conclusion of the press conference.

© 2017 KSDK-TV


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