A St. Louis man is jobless and without a car amid fallout from a viral video of him macing a crowd of protesters gathered outside a local gas station. Now facing misdemeanor assault charges, he questions why he was punished for simply doing his job.
Anthony Edwards was working security at the Gas Mart on Wednesday following tense protests over a July 24 incident, where two clerks were filmed kicking a woman to the ground, The Riverfront Times reported. Gas Mart issued an apology for the disturbing incident and the clerks involved were arrested and charged.
The action did little to quell community outrage, however, and angry protesters returned the next day. By the end of the night, Edwards found himself in the middle of the turmoil, prompting him to douse several demonstrators with pepper spray. He admits there were innocent people who likely got hit, but says it was his last resort to keep protesters from barging their way into the store.
Edwards’ actions have since cost him his job. He suspects protesters also torched his car. What’s worse, he’s now facing one count of fourth-degree misdemeanor assault.
“I spent fourteen hours in jail for something I was trained to do, you know,” he told the newspaper. “It was something I thought was an immediate threat.”
Video of the incident, posted to Facebook by Real Stl News, shows the security guard turn and raise a blue canister of mace as a protester, who Edwards claims tried to force his way in before, attempt to pry open the gas station’s front door.
“I gave him one quick burst of OC spray directly in his face, and then pulled the door closed,” he recalled.
The spray apparently hit other protesters in the crowd, sending them fleeing. People are heard coughing and choking in the background.
“Did you really just mace the crowd?” one man yelled through a bullhorn.
In the clip, a uniformed man and another man Edwards says was a plainclothes police officer emerge from the store in an attempt to calm the demonstrators. Things simmer down and Edwards, pepper spray still in hand, gestures for the two men to come back inside. That’s when a large plastic jug comes flying from the crowd, bouncing off the glass door.
At one point, a female demonstrator also approaches the door holding a handwritten sign. When Edwards opens the door to see what she wants, another gallon jug, this time filled with some sort of liquid, comes out of nowhere and hits the security guard straight “upside my head.”
Edwards turns and unleashes a second stream of mace, sending protesters scattering.
“It was a half-circle burst that went out,” Edwards told The Riverfront Times, adding that the spray struck everyone in the area, “whether you were the person threw it or not.”
The now-fired guard has defended his actions and said he was only doing what he was hired to do: protect the gas station.
Edwards found himself in police custody that night after someone dialed 911 to report the chaos. According to the newspaper, the St. Louis man was escorted through a side door and taken to a police substation where he learned investigators had seen bystander video of the incident. Officers felt he was in the wrong, however, and charged him.
Days after his release, Edwards was also fired from his job. The outcome left him angry that he was punished for doing what he was trained to do.
“When the police were out there in riot gear, they had shields while the protesters were throwing water bottles and bricks at them. They didn’t care about who they maced. They maced the whole crowd,” Edwards said. “What’s the difference between that and me macing somebody that posed a threat to coming on the inside of the building? I mean, I don’t understand.”
Managers of the Gas Mart shuttered the store for one week to allow the “community to “heal” from the recent incidents. The company said it will begin sensitivity and implicit bias training in response to the protests, the St.Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
RECAP OF PROTEST AT GAS STATION, STORE SECURITY MACES PEACEFUL PROTESTERSThe Gas Mart station reopened briefly on Wednesday despite the owner promising to close for 7 days and to hold a meeting with community activists. The protesters returned shortly after the reopening prompting the store to close again. The protests stemmed from two store employees kicking a woman who was engaged an a verbal argument with the employees on Tuesday.Wednesday’s peaceful demonstration was interrupted when security believed to be hired by the gas station maced peaceful protesters (see video). The mace hit children as well as media including Real STL News reporters who were reporting live from the scene.The guard went back into the store and then came outside where he engaged with heated arguments with demonstrators who were upset that they had been maced.The guard then sprayed the crowd indiscriminately and returned back into the store.The security guard could be seen looking out the window smiling after the incident. Street medics attempted to aid mace victims. One of the victims, Lenita Battle was attending the protest with her 16 year old son when she was maced and suffered multiple seizures. She told Real STL News “it was a peaceful protest. If i ever felt something was going to happen, I would have taken my son and left. We actually were leaving when that PUBLIC SAFETY man decided to escalate the situation by macing”. A window was broken out of the gas station by what the protest community believed to be agent provocateurs. The protesters stressed that none of the people who were there in the organized protest broke out the window. No items were removed or looted from the store despite false media reports to the contrary.Protesters returned to the station today agitated by what they believe to be a mischaracterization of their protests in the media. They asserted that no looting occurred and that the occupation would continue. Ebony Williams a known activist in the community stated “there was not one demonstrator that participated in what happened after the macing. We were peacefully protesting”. They further stated that the window damage came after the security guard escalated the situation intentionally. One activist stated we are “determined to shut it down and we don't want a riot, we want it shut down”.
Posted by Real Stl News on Thursday, July 26, 2018