As protests over the recent acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley for the killing of Anthony Lamar Smith entered their third day on Sunday evening, both reporters and activists on the scene were stunned to hear what they say were members of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department co-opt one of the most recognizable slogans of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Members of the Associated Press, as well as St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer David Carson, independently reported hearing officers chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!” as they arrested some of the approximately 100 protesters who remained in downtown St. Louis late Sunday night.
By early Monday morning, video of the chanting—originally streamed live—had been uploaded to YouTube.
Carson later reported that SLPMD Lt. Col. Gerald Leyshock claimed not to have heard the chants, but described them as “not acceptable,” while promising further action.
I have reached out to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department for further comment. I will update this post with their response.
That the officers chose that particular chant during these particular protests is especially galling, considering the phrase’s repeated—and highly recognized—use during marches against police brutality in recent years. Whether it was an intentional co-option of a familiar protest refrain, or simply the chest beating chants of adrenaline-fueled cops giddy at the prospect of making more arrests, is unclear. Either way, the sentiment expressed in the cop’s chanting was on full display during an early morning press conference held by St. Louis Interim Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole.
“We’re in control,” O’Toole said. “This is our city and we’re going to protect it.” He later added, “The city of St. Louis is safe and the police owned tonight.”
According to the Associated Press, more than 80 people were arrested during Sunday night’s protests.
Update, 3:20 PM: The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department sent Splinter the following statement:
The Department is aware of the video circulating on social media, and is reviewing the footage. We hold our officers to the highest standards of professionalism and any officer not meeting those standards will be held accountable.