Eight people among a group protesting Gov. Mike Parson's legislative agenda for the special session underway were arrested Thursday in Jefferson City for unlawful assembly and resisting or interfering with an arrest.
Jefferson City Police Department officers responded to the area of 100 E. High St. in the afternoon "for a group of subjects walking in the roadway," according to a news release from JCPD Lt. Dave Williams.
"Information obtained indicated a group of protesters were leaving the Capitol grounds and walking eastbound on High Street. Commanders attempted to contact one of the organizers in an attempt to mediate the crowd," according to the news release.
"At approximately 1:00 p.m., multiple participants began blocking the roadway at Jefferson Street and Capitol Avenue to traffic. Responding officers gave participants directions to disperse and clear the roadway. The entire intersection was being blocked by participants including some lying in the roadway," according to police.
"After multiple commands were given to the participants, the order to clear the roadway was given. The participants blocked the roadway at three different locations prior to an arrest being made. A total of eight individuals were taken into custody, of which, only one was a local resident," the news release added.
Highway Patrol Capt. John Hotz told the News Tribune that five troopers assisted JCPD and the Capitol Police Department. The Cole County Sheriff 's Department also had deputies assist, Sheriff John Wheeler said.
Williams later added in an email, "There were pepper balls used at one point" to disperse protesters.
"Ohun Ashe" — the name St. Louis civil rights activist LaShell Eikerenkoetter goes by — filmed the protest and arrests on East Capitol Avenue before appearing to be arrested herself, as she streamed the events live on Facebook.
According to posts on Ohun Ashe's Facebook page and other affiliated social media, the event was called "The People's State of the State," and the group that organized it was ExpectUS or "ExpectUsSTL365," the latter used for a Twitter account name and email address.
Organizers of the protests could not immediately be reached by the News Tribune on Thursday.
The group came to Jefferson City to protest Parson's agenda for the special legislative session underway to address violent crime, especially violent crime in Missouri's largest cities.
One of Parson's calls for lawmakers is to require courts to determine if a juvenile should be tried as an adult for unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action charges.
Courts may currently choose to have such an adult certification hearing if a child 12-17 years old has been charged with such a felony, but courts are not required to — unlike with other felonies including first- or second-degree murder, first-degree assault or first-degree robbery.
The protesters Thursday drove from the St. Louis area to protest Parson's legislative agenda. Ohun Ashe on Wednesday tweeted in particular about the proposed change to juvenile certification as "why we are showing up tomorrow," stating that children as young as 12 would be tried as adults and that Black youth would be targeted.
Overall, ExpectUS noted in a social media flyer for Thursday's protest that the governor's "'fix' for crime will only criminalize our community further. (Parson) is intentionally ignoring the root issues of crime. Instead of feeding into mass incarceration, Mike Parson should be focused on mental health, getting resources to our community and listening to the voices of the people."
State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, posted on social media about the event.
"On the day that John Lewis was laid to rest, we came to Jefferson City to push for real criminal justice. We was approache(d) by over policing and unconstitutional arrests. #GoodTrouble," Aldridge posted.
Aldridge could not immediately be reached for further comment.
According to a July 21 post on its Twitter account, ExpectUS is the same group of protesters who intended to march to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson's home last month, and in the process became part of the McCloskey incident — when the McCloskey couple stood outside their home with semi-automatic weapons as the protesters marched by, and were later charged with unlawful use of weapon charges by the St. Louis circuit attorney, according to the Associated Press.
That incident and how it was handled have become a political rallying cry for Parson and other Missouri Republican lawmakers.