St. Louis County Council holds hearing on police protest response

CLAYTON, MO - St. Louis County Councilwoman Rochelle Walton Gray called it an opportunity for everyone to weigh in on the arrests made during a protest inside the Galleria last month.  The public was invited to comment about interactions between police and protestors during a committee hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Protestors have maintained police were heavy handed with the way arrests were made. Police have maintained protestors were told to leave and say police incidents involving force will be reviewed.

Walton Gray said police were invited to speak but police representatives did not attend.  A St. Louis County Police spokesman said the department is unable to publicly comment about the Galleria arrests because they are under investigation.  He said the council was notified about the department’s decision.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Walton Gray.  She said she understood why police cannot comment but wishes a representative would have issued a statement and listened to what protestors had to say.  Police say they are well aware of what protestors want.

The committee heard from the public for a little more than 2 hours.  Speakers included State Representatives Stacey Newman and Cora Faith Walker, ACLU representatives and people who were arrested.  Some speakers called for an independent investigation into police conduct.

Walton Gray said the purpose of the hearing was not to re-hash what happened but to move forward and find solutions.  She’s hoping for more community policing in the future.

“Let’s have more police officers, resource officers in the schools and on the streets, walking and meeting the people in their community so that they get to know one another,” said Walton Gray.  She believes community policing would help reduce the animosity she sees between different groups.