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Protesters back on St Louis streets after violence, arrests

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Protests continued for the fourth straight day Monday on the streets of St Louis amid unabated outrage over the latest case of a US police officer fatally shooting a black man.

Dozens marched peacefully, some carrying “Black Lives Matter” signs, through the midwestern city’s downtown streets and in front of city hall.

Hundreds have marched every day since Friday, in demonstrations that have turned violent and led to dozens of arrests.

The public outcry is over a judge’s ruling Friday that there was not enough evidence to convict former police officer Jason Stockley for shooting Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, following a 2011 car chase.

The protests have turned violent at night, with bricks thrown through store windows, and some protesters tossing rocks and chemical substances, according to authorities.

The violence led to the cancellations of several cultural events over the weekend — including concerts by rock giant U2 and pop star Ed Sheeran.

Police have suffered minor injuries and responded with force, appearing in riot gear and arresting protesters. Police reported more than 80 arrests Sunday.

“Once again, a group of criminals set out to break windows and destroy property. Tonight, those criminals are in jail,” acting Police chief Lawrence O’Toole said at a news conference early Monday.

The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the St Louis police response, saying officers had at times acted illegally.

The civil rights group said Saturday police were “attacking people indiscriminately with gratuitous use of pepper spray, pepper balls, rubber bullets and tear gas.”

Stockley’s acquittal was the latest example of the difficulty US prosecutors face in charging law enforcement officers following controversial deaths of citizens.

A number of cases brought against officers in various American cities have failed to send officers to jail — including in the nearby states of Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

St Louis, in the state of Missouri, has a history of tensions between police and black communities, and became a cautionary example following the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown.

The officer involved was not charged by local or federal prosecutors, but the incident led the Justice Department to investigate St Louis police and find a pattern of civil rights violations.

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