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RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Mo. (AP) — Several people arrested at mall protests in suburban St. Louis nearly a year ago are expressing frustration that municipal prosecutors have decided to charge them.

Dozens of people packed a meeting Monday of the Richmond Heights City Council. Some demanded that the city dismiss the rioting, trespassing and other charges that stem from two protests at the St. Louis Galleria mall late last year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Mayor Jim Thomson said 25 people face municipal charges.

The protests were among several rallies following the Sept. 15 acquittal of Jason Stockley, a white former St. Louis police officer who was charged in the fatal shooting of a black suspect, Anthony Lamar Smith.

At least 22 people were arrested at a protest at the mall on Sept. 23. Some protesters blamed police for the disturbance, calling it a “police riot” and an infringement on free speech. Police said the arrests began after protesters failed to follow an order to disperse, but protesters said the order was inaudible to most people, and they accused police of indiscriminately making arrests.

The Galleria briefly shut down on Nov. 25 as seven people were arrested during a Black Friday protest. The demonstration was part of an economic boycott aimed at raising awareness about how African-Americans are treated by police, government and the business community.

Several speakers Monday questioned why the charges were being filed nearly a year later.

“I do not want my tax dollars spent to intimidate those who are attempting to exercise their freedom of speech,” said Paul April, who said he has lived in Richmond Heights for 60 years.

Another resident, Jennifer Day, who was at the September protest, said the timing of the charges was “confusing.”

“I thought we all understood,” Day said. “(Police) aggression caused panic, and that panic turned into rioting.”

Other speakers threatened renewed protests if charges aren’t dropped.

“If you are going to put almost 30 people in court on absurd charges, your other businesses are going to hear from us,” said Susan Clark of Ladue.

Thomson, the mayor, told the crowd that their testimony “will be forwarded to our prosecuting attorney.”

Thomson noted he had previously met with the Rev. Darryl Gray, a protest leader. Gray responded from the crowd: “And then you charged me.”


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch,