ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – There is growing concern after protests outside of City Hall turned violent again over the weekend. City workers and police have been injured in these protests - and there have been arrests.
Leaders in St. Louis say they support protesting – but say they cannot allow people to camp out overnight; especially because it’s been devolving into something more dangerous. Police officers, city workers and a News 4 crew have been assaulted or attacked in recent days.
Seven people were arrested and two officers were injured during the Sunday morning protest outside of City Hall.
“While they call it a protest, it is just a disguise to engage in bad behaviors,” St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards said, adding he will not tolerate what's been happening outside City Hall. “This is not Seattle. This is not Minneapolis. This will not happen in St. Louis.”
Protesters have demanded Mayor Lyda Krewson resign after she read aloud names and addresses online of some people who wanted to defund the police.
Mayor Lyda Krewson apologized Friday night after reading the names and partial addresses of people advocating for defunding the police during a Facebook Live.
For days, people have set up camps outside City Hall, which is prohibited by local ordinance. Police, Edwards says, have removed the tents and supplies for safety reasons.
“We have discovered unsanitary conditions both times and that is worrisome to me,” Edwards said Monday. “But moreover, I am concerned by the number of weapons identified by this protest group.”
Things have turned violent.
Two St. Louis City employees were allegedly attacked by protesters outside of City Hall while attempting to tow vehicles parked illegally overnight.
De'Aundre Fitzpatrick was charged with assault. Edwards says he hit one city tow employee in the face with a gun and punched another as the employees tried towing cars from the middle of Tucker on July 9.
Edwards also says one man was stabbed by another person at the site, requiring 30 stitches.
Around 7:30 Sunday morning a News 4 crew was confronted by a group, and threatened with bodily harm if they didn't leave, after video captured people breaking down the barricades.
“[You’re going to] get your [expletive] beat. I'm not going to tell you no more,” one protester could be heard yelling as News 4 was live on air.
Then, while reporter Caroline Hecker was on air, a man walked with a weapon and a woman gave a profane gesture – then the crew was confronted. Our camera kept rolling, picking up audio of threats as the group got into their personal space.
"I'm gonna beat your [expletive]. Get the [expletive] on. We ain’t going to tell you no more. I don't care who you is. Get the [expletive] on,” one man said as our camera recorded on a public street.
Edwards says that prompted police to start making arrests. Six people were arrested for charges ranging from trespassing to assault.
“You guys have a constitutional right to tell the story,” Edwards said. “I had never seen protesters turn on the media.” In the process, at least one officer suffered a fractured arm.
“Even when they are being yelled at, spat on and threatened with weapons, they maintain their composure and do it in a professional way,” Edwards says of the officers.
Edwards says he would rather be addressing the city's violent crime problem. Homicides and assaults are up around 10 percent, year to date from last year. He said the protests are resulted in some department resources being directed away from violent crime to the cover protests.
Edwards expects more protests in St. Louis. He says peaceful freedom of speech is okay, but violence is not.
“This is just simply a distraction, but it’s a distraction that's going to end.”
News 4 has tried on numerous occasions, including Monday, to talk to the people who have been organizing protests here, but they have declined to talk on camera.
Edwards says they are loosely organized and aren't connected to other peaceful protest groups in the city. In fact, he says most of the people arrested do not even live in the city.