(JTA) — A synagogue in St. Louis opened its doors to provide sanctuary for protesters demonstrating against the acquittal of a white policeman for the killing of a black suspect after police efforts to control the protesters led to violence.
After St. Louis Metropolitan Police officers reportedly surrounded the Central Reform Congregation on Friday night and threatened to fire tear gas at the protesters inside, a trending Twitter hashtag called on the police to #GasTheSynagogue.
The St. Louis Circuit court on Friday acquitted former police officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder in the 2011 death Anthony Lamar Smith, 24. Stockley, who is white, shot Smith, who was black, five times after a high-speed chase.
On Friday night following the verdict, some 1,000 protesters marched through the streets of downtown St. Louis in protest of the verdict. Riot police pushed at protesters and used tear gas.
Some of the protesters given sanctuary in the synagogue took to social media to say that they were safe in the synagogue and grateful for the hospitality, which led others on social media to use the hashtag evoking Nazi atrocities.
Protesters thanked the synagogue via social media as well. “Thank you so much for opening up your sanctuary to us all. I was with two of my teens and we were gassed and hit with rubber bullets trying to flee the police. I don’t know what would’ve happened had you not thrown open your doors! Much love to you all!!” wrote one woman in a Facebook post under the hashtag “radicalhospitality.”
In 2014 the synagogue, led by Rabbi Susan Talve, served as a sanctuary space for protesters after a grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.