For the third consecutive day, protests against police violence (and less so the deadly retaliation by Micah Johnson) continued on Saturday night across America and shut down key roadways and transportation arteries in a number of U.S. cities on Saturday, resulting in mass arrests. The protests stretched into early Sunday morning in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, where tensions are most raw after the deaths of Alton Sterling in the Louisiana city and of Philando Castile in a St. Paul suburb.
While thousands of mostly peaceful demonstrators flooded the streets of major U.S. cities again Saturday night, a protest in St. Paul took a particularly violent turn, with participants hurling Molotov cocktails, fireworks, rocks, glass bottles, concrete slabs, and bricks at riot gear-wearing police officers. Police said on Twitter that people on an overpass were "throwing objects at officers, dumping liquid on officers" and others were throwing rocks and rebar. Police were heard telling the crowd, "leave the interstate now or you'll be subject to a use of force" shortly after 10:30 p.m. Police blamed "aggressors" for throwing objects at officers, and said police were using "marking rounds." Five officers were injured, and two were taken to the hospital. All are expected to be okay.
Authorities used smoke bombs when 200 protesters refused to leave the roadway just after midnight. By 12:45 a.m. Sunday, police said they were clearing debris from the road in order to reopen the highway.
Between the demonstrations in Baton Rouge and St. Paul alone, there were more than 200 arrests.
But the most notable overnight arrest was that of DeRay McKesson, one of the leaders and most prominent activists of the Black Lives Matter protest movement, who as WaPo reports, was arrested in Baton Rouge, where he traveled earlier Saturday "to demonstrate in solidarity with residents angered by the recent death of Alton Sterling after an officer-involved shooting that was captured on video." McKesson was taken into custody around 11 p.m.
Activist DeRay McKesson is taken into police custody during a protest along
Airline Highway in front of the Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters
“The officers won’t give their names,” said Brittany Packnett, a co-founder with McKesson of the group Campaign Zero, a prominent activist collective. “He was clearly targeted.” She later tweeted that 100 people were arrested in Baton Rouge. There was no immediate official confirmation of that figure.
Packnett said McKesson was using his smartphone to live-stream the ongoing protests when police began forcibly dispersing the crowds. As McKesson and a group of about eight people walked down the street, an officer approached him and told him that he had been “flagged” and that if he left the sidewalk again he would be arrested. Moments later, she said, two officers forcefully arrested McKesson.
“They tackled him. One officer hit the top of his body and another officer the bottom,” Packnett said. The altercation knocked the phone from McKesson’s hand, ending his live broadcast of the demonstration, she said.
Blurry video of the moments before McKesson was taken into custody provided to The Washington Post captures his verbal exchange with the officers.
“The police continue to just provoke people,” McKesson said after an officer yells to a group of people that if they step on the roadway they will be arrested. Then an officer says the man in the “loud shoes” has been “flagged”: “You in them loud shoes, if I see you in the road, if I get close to you, you’re going to jail,” an officer can be heard saying on the video. In response, Packnett says, “We’re on the shoulder. There is no sidewalk, sir.”
McKesson is known for wearing a pair of red Nike sneakers and a blue vest to all protests he attends.
Activists continued to talk as they walked up the side of the street. Moments later, an officer’s voice is heard. “City police, you’re under arrest.” “What?!” McKesson exclaims. “I’m under arrest y’all.” Then the video and audio feed cuts out.
In a text message from police custody, McKesson said he and 33 others were in custody together, wrists tied, and being taken to a police precinct.
The reaction was quick: news of McKesson’s arrest exploded on social media, with more than 100,000 tweets before dawn using the hashtag #FreeDeray. Many urged people to call Baton Rouge police and demand his release.
As CNN's Brian Stetler noted after the arrest, "when you have someone that is relatively well-known and now trending on twitter, it does create more attention both for the protests and for the arrests."
A police spokesman confirmed his arrest to The Advocate newspaper, but did not elaborate on potential charges and did not return a request for comment from The Post. As Saturday night became Sunday morning, there was no word on what charges McKesson might be facing. But a website for a local jail showed that McKesson was an inmate there as of Sunday. McKesson called a friend in Baltimore around 5:30 a.m. and told her he was in okay physical condition but did not know when he would be released, the friend told The Post.
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Meanwhile, protests continued around major US cities.
The St. Paul protesters, who kicked off the night at 8 p.m. from the governor's mansion, forced the closure of Interstate 94. Some threw objects and dropped liquids from overpasses on officers below. Others directed laser pointers at officers. Police responded shortly after midnight with inert, glass balls and smoke to clear about 200 demonstrators who were blocking the interstate, which opened early Sunday morning. Pepper spray was also used on some protesters.
Protester Mike Martin told The Associated Press he was pepper sprayed by a police officer on a pedestrian bridge overlooking the interstate. He claimed he was trying to move the crowd along and keep the peace. "I guess I wasn't moving fast enough for him," Martin said. "He just got it out and bam, I saw a cloud. It's burning pretty bad."
In Baton Rouge masses of people also took to the streets. Demonstrators gathered at the convenience store where Sterling was shot before making their way to the Baton Rouge police department and the state Capitol. Baton Rouge resident Marie Flowers, who lives in the same neighborhood where Sterling was killed, came to the protest with her three children. "Black boys are being killed and this is just the culmination of what has been going on for decades," she told The AP. According to East Baton Rouge Sheriff public information officer Casey Hicks, there 101 arrests overnight related to the protest.
About 1,000 protesters faced off against riot gear-wearing police officers, while shouting "No justice! No peace!" Members of the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense were also present, shouting "Black Power" and raising their fists. The protests died down a little after midnight.
Two weapons were confiscated, according to a police spokesman.
It was during this protest that McKesson was arrested.
Other cities where demonstrators took to the streets per ABC:
New York, N.Y.: Hundreds of people descended upon Union Square and marched uptown, chanting "Black lives matter" and "No justice, no peace." By the end of the demonstration, about 1,000 people had taken part. An NYPD spokesman said there were 20 arrests. The charges were unknown.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Hundreds of people took part in a six-hour march to two police precincts, shouting slogans while facing off with officers.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Several hundred people, some of whom were affiliated with Black Lives Matter, broke off from the city's 200th anniversary parade to march from Point State Park to the county courthouse.
Newport, Rhode Island: More than 150 people gathered in downtown Newport to listen to Black Lives Matter speakers.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Hundreds of Black Lives Matter supporters marched throughout the city, stopping outside a Broward County jail, where prisoners banged on windows in support. Other demonstrations were held in neighboring West Palm Beach and Miami.
San Antonio, Texas: Shortly before 10 p.m. local time, someone had shot at the San Antonio Police Department headquarters, leaving no one injured, but police leaders anxious given the slayings of five officers in Dallas on Thursday.
Salt Lake City, Utah: Black Lives Matters supporters gathered in the city's downtown, where speakers addressed racial inequality and police violence.
San Francisco, California: Several roads and ramps to get on and off the Bay Bridge were blocked by demonstrators, who kicked off their march from the city's Hall of Justice. And in central California, hundreds of people blocked intersection in Fresno.