Organizers of a July 24 “Good Trouble” march in St. Charles said protestors were detained by police using the kettling tactic. The action resulted in 17 arrests during the march to honor the late John Lewis.
Video evidence shows police in riot gear lining up to corral the protestors into a parking lot in the Streets of St. Charles restaurant district before chasing and detaining at least two people. An officer can be heard saying, “Find your car or you’re going to jail.” One protestor replied, “My car isn’t parked in this lot.” At least two people are seen being detained by police in the video.
An emailed statement from St. Charles Police Department public information officer Tom Wilkerson stated the department “does not employ kettling as a tactic during operations.”
Kettling is defined as: “A police tactic for controlling large crowds during demonstrations or protests. It involves the formation of large cordons of police officers who then move to contain a crowd within a limited area. Protesters either leave through an exit controlled by the police or are contained, prevented from leaving, and arrested.”
Darryl Gray, an organizer with Expect Us, said he has been in dozens of protests and has experienced kettling in 2017 during the Jason Stockley verdict protests.
“Oh, they were definitely kettling,” Gray told The American. “When you are literally herding people – they were literally forcing us to where they wanted us to go and they were pushing us to go into the parking lot.”
Wilkerson said that the arrests were made when protestors did not follow police orders to disperse. The statement does not indicate that protestors were doing anything other than walking and standing when they were arrested.
“Officers announced several orders to disperse to protestors while on Interstate 70 and directed them to leave the roadway,” police stated. “As the protestors walked from Interstate 70 back to the Streets of St. Charles, officers followed behind them. The protestors walked back to the location then began their protest within the Streets of St. Charles where they stopped in the roadway. Officers gave additional orders to disperse. After failing to disperse, 13 protestors were arrested.”
Gray said that the protestors were stopped in the street because they were planning to end the march and go to their cars. He said the police escalated the situation.
“This was particularly surprising and shocking. We really did not expect this from St. Charles Police,” Gray said. “I do believe our rights were violated. I do believe that the police put protestors safety in jeopardy unnecessarily. There was no need for arrests when people were going to their cars.”
Both the ACLU of Missouri and ArchCity Defenders have brought lawsuits against the City of St. Louis for allegedly using the kettling arrest tactic to arrest people during protests in 2017. Protests occurred when former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley was acquitted of murder after he fatally shot Anthony Lamar Smith.
Tony Rothert, legal director of ACLU of Missouri, said that kettling allows the police to arrest people who have not committed a crime. He said the ACLU is looking into what happened in St. Charles.
“By gathering up a large group, police officers know they are catching folks who have committed no crime and treating them as if they had. That is repugnant to the Constitution,” he told The American.
“It is no mistake that this unconstitutional tactic is deployed only during protests and, more precisely, protests of police activity. Too many local departments think that police officers can ignore the Constitution because protesters hurt their feelings by being critical of police officers’ propensity for killing Black people.”
Four people were arrested at or near I-70, which was shut down for an hour. Protestors reported that law enforcement broke the car window of a protestor to remove and arrest her. They also reported seeing law enforcement officers in unmarked uniforms.
Wilkerson said that the St. Charles Police Department was assisted by police departments in St. Charles county, St. Peters, O’Fallon, Lake St. Louis and Wentzville, as well as the St. Charles Sheriff’s Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Gray said that many in the community wonder if the heightened police action is part of President Trump’s call for federal police to deploy to major cities.
“We understand that the president intends to send in additional police to cities, and we understand St. Louis is on that list,” he said.
“When you have a governor that talks about pardoning people who point weapons at nonviolent protestors, when you have all of these things going on, people are mindful of that. I suspect with all the fires of hatred and bigotry and intolerance from our president, and seemingly with our governor following suit, we shouldn’t be surprised.”