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With protest-hit St Louis on edge, U2 and Sheeran cancel gigs

[CHICAGO] The US city of St Louis remained on edge Sunday after a second night of at-times violent protests over the acquittal of a former police officer in the shooting death of a black man.

Saying police had advised them that security could not be assured, rock giants U2 and pop star Ed Sheeran called off scheduled weekend concerts in the Missouri city.

Demonstrators spilled into city streets for a second night running on Saturday, and initially peaceful rallies turned violent, with protesters breaking windows, throwing debris, and hurling chunks of concrete at the police, the authorities and media reports said.

Marching through two shopping malls, protesters chanted, "The whole damn system is guilty as hell."

The police reported at least seven arrests overnight on charges of resisting arrest and destroying property. Sidewalks in the inner suburb of University City were strewn with broken glass.

Ten officers had been injured late Friday as they clashed with rock-throwing protesters, according to police, who made at least 23 arrests at that time.

"We will not tolerate violence," Acting Police Chief Lawrence O'Toole told reporters.


The rioting came after a St Louis judge on Friday found a white former police officer, Jason Stockley, not guilty of murdering Anthony Lamar Smith, a suspected drug dealer, following a high-speed chase in 2011.

The case - the latest high-profile incident of police using violence against a black suspect - has touched a nerve in St Louis, where racial tensions were heightened by the 2014 killing of a black man, Michael Brown, in the suburb of Ferguson by a white police officer.

With the city shaken by the Stockley verdict, the U2 and Ed Sheeran concerts were among several events canceled. Others included a St Louis Symphony Orchestra concert and a "Shakespeare in the Streets" event.

Entertainment firm Live Nation and U2 jointly announced the cancellation of that group's scheduled Saturday show in a statement citing concerns about fans' security.

"We have been informed by the St Louis Police Department that they are not in a position to provide the standard protection for our audience as would be expected," they said.

"We cannot in good conscience risk our fans' safety."

U2 superstar Bono later posted on Instagram that he was "deeply saddened at what has happened in St Louis" and had asked himself, "Is this 1968 or 2017?"

And Briton Sheeran, in announcing that he was pulling the plug on a show set for Sunday, said he hoped to return as soon as possible.


Mr Stockley, the former policeman, shot 24-year-old Smith five times after a December 2011 car chase that followed a suspected drug deal.

He was caught on an in-car camera video telling his partner, Brian Bianchi, "Going to kill this (expletive), don't you know it."

Prosecutors brought first degree murder charges in 2016, alleging that Stockley's comments showed premeditation and that he had planted a silver revolver in Smith's car.

But Judge Timothy Wilson acquitted Stockley, finding that the evidence on the gun, as well as the officer's videotaped comment, provided insufficient grounds to convict.

In an interview with the St Louis Post-Dispatch, Stockley said he understood how the video might look bad to investigators and the public.

"I understand what the family is going through, and I know everyone wants someone to blame," he said, "but I'm just not the guy."