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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

St. Louis Protesters Want More Police

ST. LOUIS (CN) - Hundreds of Bosnian immigrants took to the streets in south St. Louis this week, demanding more police protection.

The protest was a response to the gruesome murder of 32-year-old Zemir Begic on Sunday, Nov. 30. Police say a group of teenagers beat Begic to death with hammers in front of his fiancée and two friends in the city's Bevo Mill neighborhood, also known as Little Bosnia.

"A lot of people are disappointed with the police, with the local government, they think they are not doing enough," Dzevada Keranovic, secretary for United Bosnian Association, told KTVI-TV. "Although with all these bad things happening they still believe that everyone together regardless of color, race, nationality, whichever way you want to call it, need to get together and work against the crime."

Police have charged Robert Joseph Mitchell, 17, as an adult with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Two other unnamed suspects, 15 and 16, are in custody; juvenile court officials said they expect them to be charged as adults. A fourth suspect is at large.

More than 70,000 Bosnians have settled in the St. Louis area after escaping from a bloody civil war, making it the largest Bosnian settlement outside of their native country. Sunday's attack brought back painful violent memories for many in the community.

Some believe the attack was racially motivated. Mitchell and one of the juveniles are black and the other juvenile in custody is Hispanic.

"Not necessarily that they believe we were targeted for being Bosnian, but just happened to be the wrong color," Keranovic said. "They believe the teenagers were just all hyped up because of everything going on with Ferguson and feeling injustice or whatever and they just grabbed the first person."

Begic's death was the start of a bloody week in St. Louis. On Tuesday, one woman died and five others suffered gunshot wounds in a botched robbery attempt at a south city bar called Pooh's Corner. The bar is a police officer hangout and the robbers encountered a bar full of retired and off-duty police officers who were armed.

Noting a spike in crime since the Ferguson unrest, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay on Wednesday pledged to hire 160 more police officers in the next two years. The increase is manpower is expected to cost the city $8 million. Slay said he is still searching for ways to fund the hiring.

Daily protests continue in Ferguson over the Michael Brown shooting. On Thursday, rap icon Flavor Flav appeared with protesters across from the Ferguson Police Department.

In related news, a prominent protester who is part of the Ferguson Commission was charged with assault during a Nov. 26 protest.

Rasheen Aldridge, 22, is charged with 3rd degree assault. Aldridge, a member of Young Activists United, is accused of shoving a guard as protesters tried to storm the entrance of St. Louis City Hall.

On Monday, Aldridge was part of a group of activists who met with President Barack Obama at the White House.

Aldridge is one of 16 members of the Ferguson Commission, picked by Gov. Jay Nixon. The commission was created to study the causes of the Ferguson unrest and to come up with potential solutions.

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