Hundreds of people in Baton Rouge who were peacefully protesting on private property Sunday evening were thrown into the street by police—and then several were arrested for being on the street.
Approximately 500 people had gathered at France and East in downtown Baton Rouge after first coming together at a nearby Methodist church to protest the police killing of Alton Sterling. Meeting the protesters were about 100 officers in riot gear. A homeowner gave the protesters safe refuge on her front lawn so they would not be arrested for being in the street.
“No justice, no peace!” they yelled.
After 90 minutes of peaceful assembly, police charged the crowd for no apparent reason. Protesters scattered, many running down a side street. Those protesters were then arrested for obstruction of a highway.
A wall of riot police then pushed the scattered protesters further away, block by block, and arrested some at the front of the crowd. “Clear the streets and leave the area!” one officer shouted through a bullhorn. “This is an unlawful assembly!”
Several protesters threw water bottles and rocks at cops as they retreated.
The homeowner told CBS News she was “stunned” by police behavior.
“I kept telling them: ‘This is my property, please do not do that, I live here,’” she said. “They just looked at me and ignored the things I was saying.”
Lt. Jonny Dunham of the Baton Rouge Police Department said the protesters were arrested for previously breaking the law by obstructing a public passage by trying to get on an interstate on-ramp. “Once you’ve broken the law, there is no safe space.”
Throughout the confrontation, police threatened to arrest all journalists without credentials.
“We’re giving you an official direction,” one officer told The Daily Beast.
The Daily Beast and several other media outlets were forced into a 10-foot wide zone by police. Then they ordered all reporters without credentials out of the zone and threatened to arrest any who put a foot in the street. Arianna Triggs, a production assistant for NBC 33, told The Daily Beast she was also threatened with arrest and forced to move.
On Saturday, at least three journalists were arrested, including a radio reporter with WWNO and a credentialed news director with WAFB. Both were booked on one count of obstructing a highway, which was the same charge leveled against DeRay Mckesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist. More than 100 people in total were arrested.
— Zack Kopplin