My name is Ben Conover, a resident of University City in St. Louis County. I work as a data analyst at a non profit that is also in St. Louis County. The reason I’m here to speak to you today is that I was a witness to the police brutality at the Galleria on Saturday, September 23rd.
I am sure by now that many of the council-members have seen videos on regular or social media of the events, but it is important to get first hand accoutns of the experiences on the ground. When the entirely peaceful protest rallied at the southern end of the mall, we continued with many of the usual chants. It is my understanding that during this time, an order to disperse was given by the police to the protesters. Let me make this very clear: a small fraction of the protesters heard this order. I was not one who did. All that many of us heard was loud whistling, and then immediately saw police officers violently arresting protesters. For the majority of the protesters, there was very little to no time to react.
Among the instances of violence include:
– The aggressive tackling of a 13-year-old boy.
– The choking of an elderly black woman.
– A tackle made with both feet off the ground by a polcie officer of a black man into multiple sets of metal tables and chairs.
– The slamming of a protester’s head and upper body into the escalator b a police officer
– The suplexing — lifting up and smasing to the ground — of a young man on the concrete outside the Mall entrance
I want you to understand that all of this was in response to peaceful protesters, and largely to a group that had no warning due to the inaudible nature of the order to disperse. This does not account for all the violence enacted by the police officers at the Galleria that day, but it is what I can attest to.
Further, after 22 were arrested – some protesting, and some not – the denial of the right to counsel occurred for an inordinate amount of time. Medications – including life-saving medication to a friend who recently had a kidney transplant and was not protesting – were denied for multiple hours. Symbolically, the Justice Center was locked with a pair of handcuffs. The abuses by the police, and then at the Justice Center, of peaceful protesters and bystanders are absolutely unethical, unacceptable, and must be reprimanded.
I assume many of you, your friends and family have shopped at the Galleria. I want you to think about the response you might have if your family members were violently arrested by police officers while shopping for a suitcase, as my friend was. I wan you to understand that this is not okay.
I call on you all to make this right. Implement the recommendations of the Ferguson Commission Report and use Prop P money for police accountability in the interest of public safety. It is the right thing to do. Thank you.