Black Lives Matter activist and former Mayoral candidate for Baltimore, Maryland, DeRay Mckesson, was arrested Saturday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for ‘simple obstruction of a highway of commerce.’
Mckesson, who live-streamed the arrest on Periscope, was protesting the recent shooting death of Alton Sterling and said he was not blocking the road and that the police were the ones being “violent.”
“The police in Baton Rouge have been truly awful tonight,” Mckesson said in the Periscope video. “They have provoked people, they chase people just for kicks. The police have been violent tonight. The protesters have not.”
In the video, Mckesson can be seen walking with a group of people down the shoulder of the road, since there is no sidewalk. At one point another protester tells him to record the shoulder line as evidence they were not walking in the road as police were claiming. Mckesson did begin recording their march, which seems to support his claim he was not blocking the road.
At one point an officer is heard saying, “You with them loud shoes, I see you in the road. If I get close to you, you’re going to jail,” warning Mckesson to stay on the shoulder.
A couple minutes later an officer is heard telling Mckesson, “City police. You’re under arrest. Don’t fight me. Don’t fight me.” Mckesson then drops his phone which is picked up by another protester.
“What’s he being arrested for?” A protester who picked up Mckesson’s phone can be heard asking police taking him away. The police did not answer the crowds calls for justification for the arrest.
Over 100 protesters were arrested during the Saturday protest, most for obstructing the road. Mckesson thinks his arrest, and many others like it, are a tactic used by law enforcement to instill fear in protesters.
“The police want protesters to be too afraid to protest, which is why they intentionally created a context of conflict, and I’ll never be afraid to tell the truth,” Mckesson told The New York Times Sunday. “What we saw in Baton Rouge was a police department that chose to provoke protesters to create, like, a context of conflict they could exploit.”
In a press conference Sunday, law enforcement officials defended their actions by saying that other streets had been completely closed down for the marches, but say Mckesson was on Airline highway, a major thoroughfare that needed to stay open to traffic.
“We certainly respect the right people have to gather peacefully, to protest peacefully and we’re going to protect that right,” Sheriff Sid J. Gautreaux III of East Baton Rouge Parish said at the press conference. “At the same time we’re not going to tolerate any violence, we’re not going to tolerate any lawlessness, we’re not going to tolerate any destruction of property.”
“We respond to their actions,” a Baton Rouge police major told Maya Lau, a reporter for The Advocate, in a video posted to her Twitter account. “We welcome the protests. We want them to voice their opinions. That’s what we’re here to do, to make sure they’re safe and they’re able to do that.”
Mckesson was held for 16 hours and released Sunday around 3:30 p.m., as reported by The Advocate on Sunday.
The Daily Callers New Foundation tried reaching out to the Baton Rouge Police Department but they did not answer the call.
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