Update, 6:15 a.m. Monday, July 11, 2016
A total of 50 people were arrested at a heated protest Sunday over the death of Alton Sterling, East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said.
Seven of those arrested are from Baton Rouge, Hicks said. Booking records show that 38 were from Louisiana, many from the New Orleans area.
All were charged with obstruction of a highway.
What began Sunday as a peaceful march over the death of Alton Sterling turned into a standoff in downtown Baton Rouge between officers threatening to gas the crowds and protesters throwing debris at police.
For at least three hours, officers and protesters were locked in an intense confrontation that occasionally erupted into skirmishes at the corner of East Boulevard and Government Street. At least 48 people were arrested.
More than 100 officers circled the crowd. Many of the officers arrived holding assault rifles, and police used a high-pitched siren called an “LRAD,” a long-range acoustic device intended to disperse the crowd with its ear-splitting sound.
Three armored vehicles accompanied officers decked out in riot gear. For the first time since the protests began last week, officers showed up with gas masks.
The more than 300 protesters of diverse races grew more vocal in face of the military-style tactics.
The protesters screamed, “They’re going to gas us,” and “Put down your guns,” in addition to their familiar chants, including “Black Lives Matter” and “No justice, no peace.” They held signs with anti-police messages like “Blue Lives Murder.”
At the height of the standoff, protesters crowded France Street, not far from the Interstate 110 on-ramp. Police, following behind an armored car, marched slowly in a line toward demonstrators who had linked arms. The vehicle pushed against them, then officers rushed in to grab protesters and remove them from the streets.
“I was pleased with what I saw, I didn’t see anyone getting hurt, I didn’t see any police getting hurt,” State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said at the scene as the crowds dispersed around 8 p.m.
He said protesters were given an opportunity to demonstrate, but once they began blocking roads, arrests had to be made.
“I’m disappointed. So disappointed. It was extremely unnerving — the military-style policing,” Batiste said after things settled down. “I didn’t want to see anyone hurt. “
Those taken into police custody often shouted their names and birthdates to representatives from the Louisiana National Lawyers’ Guild, who frantically scribbled down their information to bail them out of jail later.
“I just wanted them to have a safe place to voice their opinions as long as it wasn’t too antagonistic to police,” Batiste said. “But I think the police officers used this as an opportunity to extend their power and authority to the narrowest field of law.”