ST. LOUIS (CN) — A bold decision by St. Louis-area protest leaders yielded immediate results as there were no reports of looting or violence late Tuesday night.
It was a complete turnaround from the rioting that ensued Monday night as protests stemming from the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 resulted in 55 buildings damaged or burned, 25 arrests, four police officers shot with non-life-threatening injuries and one death.
Protest leaders held a news conference Tuesday in front of City Hall and announced that there were no protests planned for the day. The leaders condemned the violence of the previous night and expressed concern that the violence could hijack the greater movement protesting systemic racism faced by people of color.
“The activists who have been doing such a wonderful, wonderful job — they have made it very clear that they do not stand for violence,” said Bishop Elijah Hankerson, president of the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. “So please do not lump these young people together with those that are coming in and seeking to detract, to steal, to loot and to kill.”
The decision came as Mayor Lyda Krewson announced a citywide curfew starting Tuesday from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. She did not give a stop date for the curfew but said it would last for a few days.
“We have to give law enforcement and our fire department the tools that they need to try to keep us safe and to try and protect property and this curfew is a means to that end,” Krewson said.
The St. Louis curfew was joined by the suburbs of Pine Lawn and Brentwood. Ferguson, the site of the 2014 protests in response to the killing of Michael Brown, already had imposed a curfew a couple.
Governor Mike Parson announced the mobilization of the National Guard The Republican called the looting organized and said he backed peaceful protests.
“We’re not going to have police officers, we’re not going to have the citizens of Missouri being shot in our streets in this state and we’re going to put an end to it with whatever forces I have as the governor of the state of Missouri,” Parson said from the capital Jefferson City. “Whether that’s every member of the highway patrol, whether it’s every member of the National Guard, I will call them all out to stop the violence in this state.”
Monday night’s violence, which stretched nearly to dawn Tuesday, marred a day of peaceful protests.
More than 1,000 protesters congregated underneath the Arch on Monday afternoon. Hundreds broke off from that group and marched along Interstate 64. Teenagers in O’Fallon, a St. Louis suburb, organized a peaceful march attended by hundreds, highlighted by the O’Fallon police chief marching along with the organizers.
But just after 9 p.m. Monday looters sacked and burned a 7-Eleven just blocks away from St. Louis Police headquarters, sparking a night filled with violence that jarred a region still calloused from the often violent unrest in Ferguson six years ago.
Four officers were shot — one in the arm, one in the foot and two in the leg. Gunfire rang throughout the night.
“I believe some random coward randomly shot at the police line,” Police Chief John Hayden said.
Former St. Louis Police Captain David Dorn was the night’s lone casualty. The 77-year-old was working security at a pawn shop when looters shot him while overtaking the building.
Jimmie Edwards, the city’s public safety director, said more than 200 people committed acts of violence between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. He said officials called in SWAT teams from the FBI and St. Louis County police, an FBI surveillance airplane, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as authorities desperately struggled to regain control of the city’s streets.
“To the criminals that inflicted crime on our city last night, we have your surveillance pictures,” Edwards said. “And I will use every tool available to me to count every freckle on your face until you have been identified and arrested.”
St. Louis is one of several cities throughout the country that experienced widespread violence stemming from the protests on Monday night.
The violence came after strong words from President Trump on Monday, who threatened the use of military force against U.S. citizens if the protests were not controlled.
There was no indication when the protests would resume in St. Louis.