Over 120 people, including a prominent Black Lives Matter activist and three journalists, were arrested in Baton Rouge over the weekend, after protesters took to the streets to call for justice and voice anger over the fatal shooting of an African-American man by two white police officers.
Spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office told The Associated Press that 99 people were taken to the parish jail on Sunday, in connection with the protests that began Saturday. The vast majority of the people arrested were from Louisiana, and they included two reporters. A first wave of arrests took place on Friday and early Saturday, with 30 people taken into custody.
Tensions between black citizens and police have risen palpably over the past week or so amid police shootings of African-American men in Minnesota and Louisiana and the gunning down of five white police officers by a black suspect in Dallas in apparent retaliation.
Among those arrested was DeRay Mckesson, according to an Associated Press reporter who was at the scene. Mckesson is a leading figure in the Black Lives Matter movement that blossomed in the wake of the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri at the hands of police.
Authorities had just arrested a couple on a motorcycle driving by on the street when attention turned toward Mckesson. An officer could be heard pointing to a man with “loud shoes,” and saying he would arrest him if he could reach him. Mckesson was wearing bright red shoes.
Booking documents provided by the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office say Mckesson was arrested on a charge of obstructing a highway. About 90 other people faced the same charge.
Video posted on Periscope shows footage taken by McKesson in the moments leading up to his arrest. The video shows Mckesson walking alongside Airline Highway on his way back to the main area where the protests were going on when he was arrested.
On the video, Mckesson can be heard talking with fellow protesters and describing what he said was provocative police behavior against protesters.
“The police in Baton Rouge have been truly awful tonight,” Mckesson said on the video. “They have provoked people, they chase people just for kicks. The police have been violent tonight. The protesters have not.”
Moments later, someone shouts, “This is the police, you’re under arrest! Don’t fight me! Don’t fight me!”
Mckesson responds: “I’m under arrest, y’all!” before the camera is knocked to the ground.
Photo images captured by The Associated Press show police apprehending Mckesson, who at one point was on his knees before being pulled to his feet by police and led away with his hands secured behind his back.
On Sunday afternoon, Mckesson was freed on bond.
Darren Bowers, 26, of Baton Rouge, who went to pick up an arrested friend from jail, said he believes police are “antagonizing” protesters.
“People are peacefully protesting. Why are (police) in riot gear?” he asked.
The starting point of Saturday’s demonstration in Baton Rouge was the convenience store where 37-year-old Alton Sterling was shot and killed last week. Protesters then fanned out to the Baton Rouge police department and the state Capitol.
The Department of Justice has opened an investigation into Sterling’s death, which has angered many in the black community.
Shouting “No justice! No peace!” roughly 1,000 protesters gathered outside the police department, waving homemade signs as passing cars honked their support. Some drivers stopped by with bottles of water.
The protests lasted well into the evening but died down a little after midnight.
Police in riot gear came out numerous times as the demonstration wore on into the evening, facing off against the crowd that yelled slogans and waved signs.
At one point early in the protest, a police officer on a microphone told the crowd that as long as they stayed on the grass and not on the road they could remain, and then police eventually pulled back and traffic reopened.
But officers came out again after the demonstration moved to a different area of the street. At one point numerous police cars, with their blue lights flashing, sped off down the street where a smaller group of protesters had walked.
A police spokesman said two firearms were confiscated and several arrests made. Authorities said they pulled in officers from nearby parishes to buttress their numbers.
WAFB reporter Chris Slaughter was among those arrested, Hicks confirmed.
The local public radio station, WWNO, said on Twitter that one of their reporters was also arrested, and that they had little information on why.
Members of the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense called for the arrest and indictment of the officers involved in Sterling’s shooting, shouting “Black Power” and raising their fists.
“These are human-rights violations,” Krystal Muhammad shouted to the crowd at the convenience store before heading over to the police department. “They are not operating as human beings. They are being predators on our communities across America.”
Updated Sunday, July 10, 2016 at 6:21 pm