heather demian

Independent livestreamer, Heather DeMian, pepper sprayed by St. Louis police

October 18, 2017

Heather DeMian, an independent livestreamer and photographer, was pepper sprayed by St. Louis police while filming protests in St. Louis on September 29, 2017, according to her tweets and livestream video of the incident.

In an interview with St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Nassim Benchaabane after the protest, DeMian was livestreaming the demonstration to Periscope when she was informed by protesters that the St. Louis police tased a protester. She moved closer, trying to film the arrest of the protester, when police allegedly sprayed her with a chemical agent from the side.

DeMian regularly documents protests by livestreaming them on Periscope and uploading them to her Youtube channel, "Heather DeMian," and her Twitter account, @MissJupiter1957.

In the Periscope video, DeMian can be seen asking the officers multiple times why she was sprayed and why they failed to give a dispersal order. In the video, one officer points at DeMian and says repeatedly, “time to go."

“I should have to be a threat before someone fucking maces me,” she says later on the livestream.

DeMian later tweeted that the pepper spray had a severe effect on her because she has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic connective tissue disorder.

"B/c of my #EDS, my physical reaction to pepperspray is different. It takes a few minutes to feel it where I have mucus membranes in my face," she tweeted. "Didn't really feel it much on my arms & medics washed where there was visible orange liquid, but not whole arm, so missed where fine spray. So while I didn't feel an initial reaction on my arms much, where it sat on the skin for longer, it damaged the skin. #EDS"

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]

July 17, 2019 Update

Former St. Louis, Missouri, police officer William Olsten has been charged this month with three felony counts of third-degree assault for the 2017 pepper-spraying of protest attendees, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Livestreamer Heather DeMian, who was filming one of the protests that followed the acquittal of former Officer Jason Stockley on a murder charge, was among those sprayed and named in the prosecutors’ charges.

"We're grateful that the circuit attorney's office has decided to hold at least one police officer accountable for the unconstitutional and unlawful acts of the St. Louis police after the Stockley verdict,” Javad Khazaeli, one of the protesters' lawyers, told the Post-Dispatch.

DeMian is also part of an ongoing 2018 federal civil lawsuit against Olsten, current Police Chief John Hayden and the city of St. Louis.

Related Incidents

More related incidents