"I'm proud to say the city of St. Louis and the police owned the night," O'Toole said. "Our officers are doing outstanding work."
O'Toole made a distinction between protesters and those who've caused destruction, saying, "Once again, a group of criminals set out to break windows and destroy property. Tonight, those criminals are in jail."
But reports from the field suggest a more complicated narrative. While some who continued to protest after 9 p.m. did engage in destruction — including shattered windows and smashed flowerpots — those swept up in the arrests include at least one journalist, a livestreamer and others who were simply trying to flee the scene.
PHOTO BY THEO WELLING
Broken flowerpots show the destruction downtown in the late night of Sunday, September 17.
Mike Faulk, a seasoned reporter covering the protests for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, tweeted last night at 11:22 p.m. that he was in a group that was seeking to disperse, but penned in by law enforcement.
We are closed in on all four sides now I have no idea where people are supposed to go. People freaking out #STLVerdict
Journalists within the group downtown late last night allege that they heard police taking the familiar protester chant "whose streets? our streets" and turn it on its head — by themselves chanting the refrain.
In video shot by a protester the scene and later posted to Twitter by Carson, the refrain is audible.
"I spoke with the commander at the scene, he said he did not hear the chant, but said chant was not acceptable, said he would deal with it," Carson tweeted.
Asked about the statement this morning, state Representative Bruce Franks Jr. tells the RFT, "The people are the machine. We are the system. We make up the system. That's the new narrative. We will affect your peace. We will make you uncomfortable. Peace is not an option. Non-violence is."
In the press statement, posted live to video in the 1 a.m. hour, Mayor Lyda Krewson spoke just before Acting Chief O'Toole. The mayor looked tired but firm as she addressed the camera.
"Today we saw again that the vast majority of protesters are non-violent. But for the third day in a row the days have been calm and the nights have been destructive," Krewson said. "A group of agitators stayed behind apparently intent on breaking windows and destroying property. This is not acceptable.
"We have work to do here in the city. We need more and better opportunities for all our citizens. But destruction cannot be tolerated."
Krewson thanked all the first responders for "the outstanding job they have been doing over the last three days." She added, "Law enforcement has my full support."
O'Toole ended with the press statement with a bit of foreshadowing as to where the police department's next battle may lie — with the city's chief prosecutor, Kim Gardner. The elected circuit attorney will have to determine which of the arrests result in prosecution.
"These criminals should be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," O'Toole said.
Danny Wicentowski contributed to this story
Editor's note: A previous version of this story inadvertently named David Carson as the Post-Dispatch journalist arrested Sunday night. It was Mike Faulk. We have since corrected the story, and we regret the error.
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