St. Louis: Protests erupt after white officer acquitted in fatal shooting of black man

Demonstrators have clashed with police in St. Louis following the acquittal of ex-officer Jason Stockley in the fatal shooting Anthony Lamar Smith. Two officers have been hospitalized after being hit with bricks.

Watch video00:38

Police and protesters clash in St. Louis

Several officers were wounded and dozens of protestors were arrested in St. Louis, Missouri, Friday night in scenes reminiscent of the racially charged unrest that erupted in nearby Ferguson in 2014.

Read morePolice reform in Ferguson

What started as peaceful protests over the acquittal of white ex-police officer Jason Stockley in the fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, quickly escalated when demonstrators broke a window and splattered paint over St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house. That prompted riot police to respond by dispersing the crowd with tear gas and armored vehicles.

Two officers were hospitalized after protestors hurled bricks at them, the St. Louis police department said on Twitter.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

At least 2 police officers hurt after chemical agents used near Waterman and Kingshighway after  verdict.

Meanwhile, video footage posted online showed police dousing at least five protestors with pepper spray outside the courthouse where Stockley was acquitted.

Ahead of the ruling, activists had threatened civil obedience, including possible efforts to shut down highways, if Stockley were not convicted. One group of protesters tried to climb onto one of the highways but were blocked by police. Another group cut off an intersection by sitting down silently in the middle of the street.

Ex-cop Stockley acquitted of first-degree murder

Stockley was found not guilty of first-degree murder after he fatally shot and killed Smith back in 2011. The court on Friday found that the State had failed to prove “every element of murder beyond a reasonable doubt” or had not “proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense.”

According to Stockley, Smith had attempted to run over him and his partner after they encountered what appeared to be a drug deal in a fast-food restaurant parking lot. After chasing the Smith by car, Stockely opened fire through the driver’s window after Smith allegedly tried to reach over to the passenger seat to grab a revolver.

Watch video26:03

Divided Nation – Is Race Killing America?

Police dashcam footage showed Stockley saying that he was “going to kill this (expletive), don’t you know it,” before shooting Smith five times, which, according to the prosecution, proved the officer had intended to kill Smith. Stockley’s lawyer dismissed the remarks, saying they were “human emotions” uttered during a high-risk police pursuit.

Footage also showed Stockley reaching into a bag in the back of the police SUV before returning to Smith’s car. The revolver Smith is alleged to have reached for did not have his DNA on it, although it had Stockley’s.

However, Judge Timothy Wilson said he doubted the prosecution’s claim that the gun was planted, writing in his ruling: “The court observes, based on its nearly 30 years on the bench, that an urban heroin dealer not in possession of a firearm would be an anomaly.”

Following the ruling, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner acknowledged the difficulty of winning police shooting cases, but maintained that the prosecution had “offered sufficient evidence that proved beyond a reasonable doubt” that Stockley had intended to kill Smith.

Remnants of Ferguson

Friday’s violent protests played out not far from the Missouri suburb of Ferguson, where Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, was shot dead by a white policeman in 2014. The officer, Darren Wilson, was never charged, prompting weeks of civil unrest and giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Since then, several officers have also been acquitted in police shooting trials in Minnesota, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, while a case in Ohio twice ended in a hung jury with the prosecution decided not to seek a third trial.

dm/rg (AP, Reuters)

Watch video01:34

Spotlight on US gun debate

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

  • Courtesy, DW

What are Venezuela’s proposed constitutional changes?

Venezuela has been in the grip of mass protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s plans to create a “constituent assembly.” Ahead of the Sunday vote, DW looks at the beleaguered president’s constitutional proposals.

Watch video00:39

Venezuela moves ahead with election despite violence

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s push for a special assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution has provoked international criticism and anger from the South American nation’s opposition groups. More than 100 people have died in anti-government protests since Maduro announced his plans in May.

Maduro, however, is bent on going ahead with creating a “constituent assembly” to “achieve the peace needed by the republic, defeat the fascist coup and let the sovereign people impose peace, harmony and true national dialogue.”

The Sunday vote will determine whether Maduro succeeds in his plans. The country’s electoral council, which is dominated by Maduro’s supporters, has created a voting system that critics say heavily favors the ruling party.

Watch video01:41

Deadly clashes in Venezuela as crisis deepens

Venezuelan opposition says Maduro could use the new assembly to install an autocratic regime.

Read: Pope Francis calls for ‘diplomatic solution’ to end violence in Venezuela

Proposed constitutional changes

What remains unclear is what constitutional changes the president is seeking. Maduro has only spoken about it in vague terms. But this is what could be in the offing:

– The new assembly is likely to create a peace and justice commission that would ensure those responsible for ongoing protests and political upheaval be dealt with effectively.

– Legislators in the National Assembly, controlled by opposition members, could be stripped of their immunity from prosecution.

– Not only will the National Constituent Assembly rewrite Venezuela’s constitution; it will also have more powers than the National Assembly.

– The next presidential vote is set for next year, but the constituent assembly could postpone it.

– The assembly is certain to continue the socialist policies first installed by Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

Read: Venezuela police beat journalists, anti-Maduro protesters

Unpopular vote

Only 23 percent of Venezuelans favor the new assembly plans, according to a June survey by polling firm Datanalisis. Nineteen percent said a new constitution would “guarantee peace and stability” in the country.

Earlier this month, more than 7.5 million people had rejected Maduro’s proposals in an unofficial referendum organized by opposition parties.

The United States and the European Union have slammed Maduro’s proposed measures and have threatened to further isolate the socialist regime.

shs/  (AP, Reuters)

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Dozens detained in Moscow as protesters show up at unauthorized location (VIDEOS, PHOTOS)

Dozens were detained at an unauthorized protest in Moscow after Aleksey Navalny called for the demonstration to be moved from its authorized location, citing obstructions to installng a sound system and stage. Hundreds turned up at the authorized site, with sound systems present.

Recap: RT’s extensive LIVE updates on Moscow protest rallies

About 4,500 people took part in an unauthorized protest on Tverskaya Street in the center of the Russian capital, Moscow police said in a statement. More than 150 people were taken to police stations for “breaching public order,” the statement added.

Protest at historic fair contained. Police making arrests. Opposition chanting “shame”. People urged to go to designated protest venue

It came after one of the organizers, Aleksey Navalny, called for the demonstration to be moved from the authorized location on Sakharova Street to Tverskaya Street, through a message on his website just hours before the event. Navalny cited a lack of stage and audio systems as a reason for moving the location.

“Some contractors refuse [to provide equipment] straight away, others when they learn about the geolocation,” Navalny claimed, adding that equipment suppliers were allegedly being “pressured” not to work with him, regardless of the money he offered.

Navalny urged protesters to come to Tverskaya Street instead. Moscow authorities announced they were not contacted on the issue and assumed that it was a “new provocation” intended to deceive people into attending an unauthorized gathering. The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office warned Navalny that holding a demonstration on Tverskaya Street would violate the law and law enforcement would be compelled to take necessary measures.

Around 1,800 people, according to police estimates, showed up at the original location on Sakharova Street, and the demonstration concluded without any major incidents, according to Moscow police.

It can be seen in a video that a stage equipped with audio systems was functioning on Sakharova Street, and was used by people protesting a massive Moscow redevelopment project.

Navalny himself was not able to show up at any of the events, as he was detained by police before the beginning of the protest. According to his lawyer, Vadim Kobzev, Navalny’s administrative case involves repeated violation of rules for organizing or carrying out a public rally.

A number of opposition protesters, following Navalny’s call, gatecrashed the celebrations on Tverskaya Street, including ‘The Times and Epochs’ historical festival. The festival has been running at multiple locations in Moscow since June 1, with over 6,000 reenactors participating, including history enthusiasts from the UK, US, Italy, Sweden, France, Ireland and other countries.

Families with children now fleeing historical fair in Moscow, after opposition protesters blockaded one of the enterances to the fair

Police contained the unauthorized protest and urged them to go back to nearby Pushkinskaya Square in an orderly fashion. Over 150 people were detained in Moscow during the unauthorized protest, the police said.

While 4,500 people came to Tverskaya Street to participate in the unauthorized protest, over 270,000 people visited the central Moscow street to take part in the Russia Day festivities, according to police estimates. Russia Day is the national holiday commemorating the 1990 declaration of sovereignty. Some 3.8 million people have participated in around 3,000 events across the country, police reported.

Another unauthorized protest rally was held in St. Petersburg. Some 3,500 people turned out at the event, according to police estimates, while at least 500 were detained over public order disruption.

A number of sanctioned opposition protests were held across other Russian cities. The events concluded without any major incidents. Around 2,500 protesters participated in an anti-corruption demonstration In Chelyabinsk, according to police, and up to 2,000 people took part in an authorized rally in Ekaterinburg.

The protests in other Russian cities attracted much smaller turnouts. Rallies in Murmansk, Kurgan and Belgorod were attended by some 100 people each. About 150 protesters gathered in Cheboksary, Magnitogorsk and Ulan-Ude, about 200 met in Bryansk and Rostov-on-Don, and 300 people gathered in Tyumen.

Death toll rises as protests continue in Venezuela

A young demonstrator has died of gunshot wounds during ongoing anti-Maduro rallies across Venezuela, bringing the death toll to 48 as demonstrations enter their eighth week.

Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest against the government (Getty Images/AFP/F. Parra)

During Sunday’s rally in the western city of Valera, gunmen reportedly fired at demonstrators and hit several people, including an 18-year-old male and a 50-year-old woman.

“At that moment, [Edy Alejandro] Teran Aguilar received a bullet in the chest,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement. The 23-year-old was pronounced dead upon arrival at a local hospital.

The mayor of a municipality in the eastern part of the capital, Caracas, said 46 people were injured in protests on Saturday. In the Caracas suburb of San Antonio Los Altos a youth was wounded by gunfire, according to the opposition governor of the state of Miranda.

Demonstrators protect themselves from tear gas during clashes with riot police during a protest against the Maduro government in Caracas, May 20. AFP PHOTO / FEDERICO PARRAProtesters struggled with tear gas in clashes with riot police during a protest in Caracas

Since the protests began on April 1, hundreds have been injured and 2,200 have been detained. Of those arrested, 161 have been jailed on the order of military courts, according to Foro Penal, a non-governmental monitor.

Venezuela’s opposition have blamed President Nicolas Maduro for the country’s wrecked economy that has led to dire shortages of the most basic of goods.

Authorities blocked an opposition push for a referendum in 2016, delayed state elections and are resisting calls to bring forward the next presidential election scheduled for late 2019.

Some 17 opposition parties have agreed to discuss the terms of a national dialogue with the government, although right-wing groups aligned with the Democratic Unity alliance have refused to cooperate.

Public burning

President Maduro slammed opposition protesters on Sunday for setting a man on fire during a demonstration.

“A person was set on fire, beaten up, stabbed… They nearly lynched him, just because he shouted out that he was a ‘Chavista,'” Maduro said – referring to the ruling socialist movement created by his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

About 100 people participating in anti-Maduro protests in east Caracas reportedly surrounded the man, doused him in gasoline and set him alight, witnesses told the news agency Reuters.

“Burning a person because he seems a Chavista is a hate crime and a crime against humanity,” Maduro said in his weekly TV broadcast.

“Growing insanity. A human being is set on fire at a ‘peaceful demonstration’ by the opposition in Caracas,” Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said on Twitter, posting a video of the incident.

The prosecutor’s office said it had opened an investigation.

Aquí video de guarimberos accionando armas de fuego artesanales en “protestas no-violentas” (sic) en Caracas Venezuela

Paranoia rules

Maduro believes protesters are plotting a coup against him with US help and are increasingly persecuting “Chavistas” at home and abroad. Last week, he compared the situation to the Nazi treatment of Jews.

“Venezuela is facing […] a coup movement that has turned into hatred and intolerance, very similar to Nazi fascism,” he reiterated on Sunday.

Maduro blamed “the leaders of groups of mercenaries” for the violence and said several of them were already in prison.

US President Donald Trump, Maduro said last week, has his hands “deeply penetrated in this conspiracy, which aims to take political control of Venezuela.”

Watch video00:32

More than 200,000 protesters march against Maduro

jbh/cmk (Reuters, AFP)

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Protests paralyze Venezuela

DW talked to Venezuelan journalist and photographer Ivan Reyes whose images highlight the stories of the people marching against the government.

DW: The protests against President Nicolas Maduro have been going for almost two months now. What is the mood in the crowd?

Ivan Reyes: The hope that the change is finally near gives everyone strength. People are angry and frustrated, and they say they will march as often as necessary to show Maduro that they won’t accept his form of governing anymore. But that rebellious spirit disappears once you hear the deafening sound of bullets and when the tear gas starts getting into your eyes.

Read: Pro-Maduro militia suppress Venezuela democracy demos

Every day, I see very emotional scenes. You know, those are not just young folks revolting against the system: Whole families, communities from universities and workplaces, organized groups, the elderly, and even people with disabilities come to the walkouts. The number of demonstrators is already quite big, you can hear them arguing whether they should march toward the presidential palace or confront the police in the streets, but they always unite in the end because they want the same thing – change.

Has anything changed in Venezuela yet?

The main goal – to remove the socialist government and install democracy – remains. I wouldn’t consider the recent protests to be a continuation of the 2014 riots, however. Unlike today, there was no opposition, and the events were rather random. What persists is the discontent with the current shape of the country that has been growing for several years. There have 15 mass protests in April and May alone, which is something unprecedented in the history of Venezuela.

Also, we are living in a true crisis right now – people weren’t dying from malnutrition or a lack of medication three years ago. You could have seen traditional media reporting from the streets, but nowadays the press is under pressure, and journalists don’t dare to be seen in the crowds.

More than 1,000 people have been arrested, and almost 40 have died so far in the protests. Doesn’t it discourage people from going out on the streets?

Watch video00:37

More protesters killed in Venezuela unrest

No, it actually makes them even more tenacious. You can feel the determination to resolve the situation once and for all; the lines are not as easily dispersed as they used to be. For instance, when people have to pull back, they only do so to reorganize, and then they return to the march again. But of course, fear is omnipresent because everyone has realized by now that the national police and the national guard are here not only to repress the crowd but also to hurt the people. The way they launch tear gas now can easily kill a person. But everyone is willing to resist; they withstand the shootings, the gas, and the attacks.

Read: Thousands of women march across Venezuela as political crisis deepens

However, it seems that the violence has been escalating on both sides recently especially since many masked groups took to the streets.

I believe the protests are quite peaceful, actually, and there is a desire for them to be non-violent, although that has become impossible. What I see every day is people with flags, banners, whistles, and hopes for a better tomorrow. But yes, some groups engage in clashes. They use stones and even make Molotov cocktails in order to match the governmental forces. It is a battle they can’t win, unfortunately – only the government has the resources to keep on fighting.

Why are the armed services so loyal to Maduro’s regime?

Some higher ranking officers get access to food, housing, vehicles, and even an above-average salary, although it is not very common. In reality, many who join the police or the national guard come from very poor environments, and they assume such jobs are a way out of their situation.

The political crisis in Venezuela is going hand in hand with the economic crisis. What does everyday life look like in Caracas?

People will do anything to survive. Some sell ice cream, water, cigars, or food on the streets, but the hunger is everywhere, and many people are reduced to having to dig through the trash to get some leftovers at least. Long lines form just to buy bread or get the so-called CLAP bags with various basic ingredients that state agencies distribute among the population, but those are not available to everyone either.

Read: 5 things to understand about oil-rich, cash-poor Venezuela

There are those who carry on, living their normal lives despite everything that’s happening, but they are not many today. Going to the movies or the theater has become an exercise in escaping the reality. Since the riots take place every day, the government shuts down streets, avenues, highways, and even the subway, which completely changes the dynamics of the whole society. As much as they don’t want to get involved in the protests, they end up being affected in one way or another.

Do you see an end to all this?

I don’t think the demonstrations will cease soon because I am not convinced Maduro is willing to resign. I’d say the actions on the streets will continue, but the opposition leaders should look for a new, innovative way to protest. Right now, they always end up the same – being dispersed on some highway or another venue.

The people are still motivated, nonetheless, they want the change. I think it’s a resistance fight on both sides. Let’s see which team gets tired first.

Ivan Reyes is a journalist working for Efecto Cocuyo, an independent Venezuelan newspaper.

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Venezuela death toll continues to rise as protests enter fourth week

At least two more people reportedly have died, taking the death toll to 23 since anti-government protests erupted across Venezuela at the beginning of April. Protesters have staged sit-ins on roads and highways.

Venezuela Caracas Demonstrationen (Getty Images/AFP/F. Parra)

At least two more people have died according to official sources as anti-government rallies across Venezuela once again turned violent on Monday.

Among those killed was a local government worker who was shot dead at a pro-government counter protest in the Andean state of Merida. Reports from the opposition party suggested that another person was killed during a rally in the western agricultural state of Barinas.

DW RECOMMENDS

5 things to understand about oil-rich, cash-poor Venezuela

Venezuela is flush with oil, but strapped for cash. Empty store shelves and hospitals short on medicine have driven its people to desperation. DW outlines five key points to understanding the oil-based crisis. (19.04.2017)

Capriles: ‘The government is promoting the violence’

Opinion: Hope is stronger than fear in Venezuela

Several other demonstrators are believed to be seriously injured and “between life and death,” according to public defender Tarek William Saab.

Monday’s deaths take the total number of dead up to 23. On Sunday, Venezuela’s Interior Ministry reported that one demonstrator was killed at a pro-government rally after being hit on the head with a frozen water bottle thrown from a high-rise. During the early hours of Friday morning, 11 people were electrocuted while trying to climb an electric fence.

Venezuela, plagued by a political and economic crisis, has been hit by a series of violent protests this months, triggered by the government-loyal Supreme Court’s decision to strip the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its last vestiges of power.

Although the decision was later reversed amid a barrage of international condemnation, protestors view the move as part of President Nicolas Maduro’s plot to forge a  form of dictatorship.

The opposition has demanded fresh election and the release of jailed activists. However, the protests have taken place against the backdrop of a crippling economic crisis that driven people to anger and desperation.

Watch video01:49

DW News

“Peaceful protests across the country will continue until Mr Maduro respects the constitution and ends his internal coup,” Henrique Capriles, the would-be opposition candidate who was disqualified from public office, tweeted on Monday. “If there is no answer from Maduro’s corrupt drug-trafficking leadership, at the end of the day we will announce further action.”

(1) El PLANTÓN y protesta pacífica del Pueblo venezolano en las calles es exigiendo respuesta de la narco corrupta cúpula madurista!

(2)Los venezolanos como establece nuestra Carta Magna (Art.333) tenemos el DEBER de colaborar en la restitución del hilo constitucional!

Highway rallies

Monday’s protests saw tens of thousands march along Caracas’ main highway, disrupting one of the main traffic arteries into the city.

The capital’s Francisco Fajardo highway was transformed into a plaza of sorts, as demonstrators sprawled in lawn chairs, enjoyed picnics and played cards. Protestor Juan Carlos Bautista told the Associated Press news agency that he passed the afternoon playing dominos. “We want to be free. I’m here fighting for my children and my children’s children,” he said.

Although the rally was reported to have been largely peaceful, a handful of protestors clad in bandanas launched stones at police, prompting authorities to fire tear gas into sections of the crowd.

Staged sit-ins also took place across all of Venezuela’s 23 states.

Venezuela Protest (Getty Images/AFP/F. Parra)Venezuelan opposition activists raise a road block across a Caracas avenue using bath tubs.

“In the morning they appear peaceful, in the afternoon they turn into terrorists and at night bandits and killers,” senior Socialist Party official Diosdado Cabello said of the anti-government protesters. “Let me tell them straight: we’re not going, Nicolas (Maduro) is not going.”

More than 1,400 people have been arrested throughout Venezuela since protests erupted in early April, according to the local rights group Penal Forum. Of those, 636 were still detained as of Monday.

dm/bw (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

Watch video01:07

Social media captures violent crackdown during Venezuela protests

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Venezuela opposition holds silent protest rally as campaign goes on

Venezuela’s opposition has held a march to honor the people who died in three weeks of protests against the government. The economic crisis is worsening.

Vemezuela Caracas stiller Marsch zum Gedenken der Opfer (Reuters/C. G. Rawlins)

Thousands of people dressed in white shirts walked in silence towards the headquarters of the Catholic archdiocese in Caracas on Saturday as they honored the 20 people who have died in three weeks of protests.

After heated negotiations with security forces blocking their way, the protesters were allowed to complete their march. Police fired tear gas to disperse a group of protesters trying to join the march but there were no reports of violence, deaths or injuries.

Vemezuela Caracas stiller Marsch zum Gedenken der Opfer (Reuters/C. G. Rawlins)Demonstrators dressed in white shirts to honor those who died

Three weeks of protests have seen riot police and pro-government vigilantes take on opposition protesters throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.

“We want free elections, we want to get rid of this corrupt government,” said Iomira Barrios, an environmental consultant who says she can no longer find work. “Right now people are willing to fight, because they have declared a dictatorship and we cannot allow it.”

Opposition to the government of President Nicolas Maduro has been growing, even among the poor who were the strongest supporters of his predecessor and mentor Hugo Chavez.

Economic woes 

Once generous social programs funded by high oil prices have been curtailed as the world oil price fell and the economy has spent three years in recession. Oil accounts for 95 percent of foreign-currency earnings.

There are shortages of basic goods and food, leading to long lines outside shops as people wait to buy what little there is available.

In its World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) wrote “Venezuela remains mired in a deep economic crisis.” Unemployment has risen from 7.4 percent in 2015 to 25 percent this year and could rise to 28 percent next year.

Inflation may reach 720 percent this year, according to the IMF and could rise to 2,000 percent by 2018.

Opposition assembly leader writes to banks

The opposition, via National Assembly President Julio Borges, has written to leading international banks, including Deutsche Bank, warning them against supporting the Maduro government.

“The national government, through the central bank, is going to try to swap gold held as reserves for dollars to stay in power unconstitutionally,” said one letter sent Thursday to John Cryan, the
CEO of Deutsche Bank. “I have the obligation to warn you that by supporting such a gold swap you would be taking actions favoring a government that’s been recognized as dictatorial by the international community.”

General Motors closes plant

After 69 years in business in Venezuela, US car giant General Motors shut down its operations after authorities seized the plant and took its vehicles, the company announced last Thursday.

The factory was “unexpectedly taken,” according to a statement from GM. The company “strongly rejects the arbitrary measures taken by the authorities and will vigorously take all legal actions, within and outside of Venezuela, to defend its rights,” the Detroit-based automaker said in a statement.

Venezuela General Motors stoppt Produktion (picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. C. Hernandez)Workers at the GM plant in Valencia

The auto industry has followed the rest of the economy in its descent. In a nation of 30 million people, only 293 cars were sold in March, according to figures from Bloomberg. Ford still has a plant in Venezuela, although it is not operating. Toyota and Fiat Chrysler are still operating.

The GM takeover was the first nationalization of a major company’s facilities in more than two years. In 2014, household goods company Clorox halted its operations because of inflation and government-mandated price freezes. The government took over and opened up the Clorox sites again.

Watch video01:25

GM shuts Venezuela plant

 

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC