Authorities are investigating a Saturday afternoon incident in which someone threw lit firecrackers into a crowd of protesters right after a Lafayette demonstration against police brutality.
A man got out of a white pickup truck and threw the fireworks — “like Black Cats, but bigger” — into the crowd of about 100 men, women and children as it dispersed in the O’Charley’s restaurant parking lot on Ambassador Caffery Parkway, protest organizer Denise Gobert said Monday.
“Nobody was hurt, so that’s something we are grateful for,” Gobert said. “Little pieces (of the firecrackers) hit people, but not to the point of them being burned.”
The Lafayette Police Department was not present to keep tabs on the demonstration during its run from about 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., but a police unit did show up to take a report after someone called in the disturbance, spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton said.
“All we have right now is a vehicle description,” Mouton said.
Investigators are looking at surveillance footage from surrounding businesses to help pinpoint the offender, Mouton said. If the culprit is identified, he could be issued a misdemeanor summons for criminal mischief. A conviction would result in a fine up to $500 and up to six months in jail.
The count would not be any more severe because no one reported injury, Mouton said.
“Hopefully, someone has to pay the consequences for what they did,” Gobert said.
Participants were made aware of possible danger at the protest through the event’s Facebook page after some on social media made threats against the demonstrators prior to the event.
At least two large pick-up trucks “coal-rolled” the marchers in counter-protest, with drivers spewing black smoke from illegally modified exhaust pipes into the faces of the participants, including some young children in strollers.
Although no state law explicitly declares “coal-rolling” illegal, a driver could be cited for the act under a state law that requires engines to “be so equipped as to prevent the escape of excessive fumes or smoke.”
The trucks separately approached the protesters as the group walked a mile up and down Ambassador Caffery Parkway from Kaliste Saloom Road to Dover Boulevard and staged a five-minute “die-in” in front of IHOP.
“You can have a different opinion, and that’s fine,” Gobert said of the counter-protesters. “But don’t try to harm somebody just because they have a different opinion than you.”
Some drivers gave the marchers a thumbs-down or a middle finger as they passed, while others honked in support and offered congenial waves and peace signs. One woman stood alone at the corner of Settlers Trace Boulevard, flashing a neon poster that read, “No cops! No peace!” as she shouted the same.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.