Peaceful St. Louis protester speaks out on police brutality experience
St. Louis police in riot armor. | Tom Gannam / AP

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”—The First Amendment

It is a fact that when people see an injustice, they have the constitutional right to protest. The American Revolution began with violent protest and the destruction of property: The Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party—92,000 pounds of tea (property) valued at well over a million dollars today.

The brutality and repression colonists felt at the hands of British soldiers are no different from the brutality, repression, and murder people of color face daily at the hands of militarized police in far too many instances. And it’s similar to what activists have been experiencing recently while protesting.

So what’s the difference? Why are colonial protests and riots heroic, yet modern-day activism a stain on the American character?

In truth, all one can do is speculate on a number of reasons why. But what we know is that nationwide people turn on the news and see only one narrative: “Violence erupts as protesters destroy local businesses and property.”

The recent acquittal of ex-police officer Jason Stockley, who was charged with first degree murder and armed criminal action in the 2011 killing of Anthony Lamar Smith, a 24-year-old African American, has again forced St. Louis activists into the streets—protesting the failure of the American legal system.

In response, police have deployed questionable tactics and violated the constitutional rights of many. And they are not ashamed of it—going as far as stealing the protest chant, “Whose Streets? Our Streets!”

With civil liberties being trampled in the name of “law and order,” it seems like no one is safe when standing up against injustice.

In the video at the end of this story, you will see a peaceful protestor standing outside as a line of riot police move forward. Seconds later, two officers break from the line and violently shove her to the ground. As the line moves forward she is shoved repeatedly before being tackled to the ground and arrested.

Meet Alexx, a 23-year-old with a career in teaching children with autism, a new activist, and the protester shown in the video. She was kind enough to sit down with People’s World to give her first-hand account.

As we sat down inside a local cafe, you could see the exhaustion and sadness in her eyes, along with the bruises on her arms from the arrest.

This is her story:

Alexx was violently tackled and arrested by police in St. Louis as she stood on a sidewalk outside a bar. | Al Neal / PW

This was my first protest as an activist. In my life, every day, I try to hold myself to a standard, and if I am not willing to put myself out there to do something or try something different, then I can’t expect other people to. I’ve always supported the Black Lives Matter movement, the protesters, but I realized that I was getting angry and not doing anything about it. I felt it was selfish and cowardly and it wasn’t right. So, I decided it was time to step up and do something.

I was sleeping when the verdict came out—I wasn’t feeling well—and then I got a text from a friend as soon as I woke up. I was stunned, I felt that once again our community as a whole was let down. There was so much evidence, and having the judge say that he couldn’t let other people’s opinions sway his decision was too much. You could give all that evidence to anyone and the outcome would have been a guilty verdict. 

Friday afternoon was mostly peaceful. There are always some people who are going to act out, but again you don’t see anything not peaceful until the cops show up in riot gear. I left a little bit before the older lady was trampled by riot cops, but just seeing it afterwards showed me how much they don’t care. 

On Saturday, I had been marching after work, and again the cops came out in riot gear and folks got riled up. Around 9:30 p.m., the organizers ended the demonstration and in one video you can even hear me saying, “Hey, it’s been a long day, let’s go shoot darts over at Blueberry Hill [a local bar and music venue].”

So we were playing darts for an hour, hour-and-a-half, and as it got later in the night, the bar started to get crowded. I suffer from a bit of social anxiety around a lot of people, so I told my friends I was going to step outside, as he was closing his tab. I stepped outside and went to the right, turned right to cross the street and see all these riot cops lined up. They started saying something to me, personally, but I couldn’t hear, so I got back onto the sidewalk and just stood there waiting because I didn’t know what was going on. 

They keep shouting, but I couldn’t hear what they’re saying and then these two cops came off the line, one was a lieutenant, and they just shoved me hard into the ground, and yelled at me to “get back inside you inbred!” 

While I’m on the ground he keeps yelling, “Get the fuck inside,” and I say, “I’m trying, my roommate is inside,” and by this point, the cops are surrounding me. The lieutenant pulls up, then another shoves me, and then, next thing I know, there are six cops on me, and I’m on the ground. My hands were up, I was not resisting, I even said, “I’m not resisting.” I had a knee in my back, someone on my legs, two cops on my arms, and another cuffing me. My rib cage and back are still sore. 

I asked 17 times, “Why am I being arrested?” and no one told me anything. The lieutenant was gone—even though his name was on the paperwork as the arresting officer—and I heard the riot police talking amongst themselves trying to figure out what to write on the arrest paper. 

I had no idea what was going on, I had never been arrested before. I tried giving my roommate my backpack—the one with all my medication that needed to go with me—and then the cop yells at him and yanks the bag away from him—my medication needed to be taken every couple of hours and I kept telling the cops that. 

They put me in a van, and I saw my bag leave with me. Then they sat me on the curb with five other people before they took me to the University City police station, and I didn’t see my bag. After being in a holding cell for maybe three hours—there were no clocks inside—I was transferred to the county jail. This whole time, I kept telling them that I needed my medication. I even told the intake nurse at county jail that I hadn’t had my meds in hours and needed them—all I got was Claritin for my allergies. 

While I was inside county jail, I heard a couple of officers mocking the protesters. The one that stood out for me was an officer who started laughing and said, “Yeah, I had this one jackass ask me how I sleep at night, and I just said, ‘I don’t, I actually work for a living,’” and it hit me that this is what they’re doing on the clock, gossiping like we did in middle school. This is just a fucking joke to them, it’s a game, and it’s hard because I have a friend who is still an officer. Don’t get me wrong, even if there are good cops that don’t like what is going on, they aren’t good enough—if they were they would put their morals over their jobs no matter what, and if you’re standing behind officers who partake in police brutality, then you’re not doing your job and protecting people. It’s a brotherhood to them, and you never go against it out of fear of retaliation. 

I was released the next morning around 6:00 a.m. I wasn’t charged with anything, never had my rights read to me, and when I asked, no one could find my backpack. I called so many police numbers and local precincts trying to find it. 

Eventually I did find it—using the lost iPhone locator—thrown in a dumpster out in Maryland Heights, Mo., a 20-minute drive from county jail, with everything I own inside. When I talked to my cop friend, she said it was probably because the officers who arrested me didn’t want to deal with the paperwork. She’d seen it happen before. 

As we left the cafe, Alexx mentioned she planned to continue protesting injustice, “I don’t care if I have to get arrested again; protesting against police brutality is what needs to happen.”

Caleb Fetsch via Facebook

MAKE THIS GO VIRAL. The quality may be shitty, but an innocent, peaceful person was just assaulted by police and I have been refused any information about her whereabouts or why she's been arrested. After the peaceful portion of the protest ended (the violent outcome was stlpd's own doing), we played darts at Blueberry Hill and had a drink. When things escalated, the staff at B Hill wouldn't let people in or out, which we did not know when she stepped outside and I closed my tab. So she was stuck outside. The video is evidence enough. NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE. NO RACIST POLICE.

Posted by Caleb Fetsch on Saturday, September 16, 2017


Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.