Members of a group that split off from an anti-Donald Trump march Friday evening night hit one police officer with a brick and injured another’s knee, vandalized several buildings in the French Quarter and Central Business District and trashed two police cruisers, the New Orleans Police Department said.
Police arrested 15 people, most of them on at least one felony charge. An unknown number of others were also involved in the vandalism but were not caught by police, officials said.
Images shared Friday night show an NOPD cruiser covered in paint, various symbols and the words "F*** Trump."
The images were shared by WWL-TV.
Following the incident, officers were planning to crack down on activists in masks during Saturday’s anti-Trump protest and would “arrest everyone we catch” wearing a mask after nightfall, NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison said.
“We always want to get the message out that we allow people to protest peacefully when they want to exercise that right,” Harrison said. “What we are not going to tolerate is acts of violence and acts of vandalism.”
An organizer of the Friday evening protest, which was known as J20 NOLA, said of the vandalism, “Those are not our tactics, and we don’t share those tactics.”
The protest was the second of two marches in New Orleans on Friday. The first, a Jazz Funeral for Lady Liberty, ended in the early afternoon without incident.
The violence Friday night began shortly after the J20 protest wrapped up in Duncan Plaza after a march that took it through the CBD.
Harrison said an unknown number of people left the plaza near City Hall and began spray-painting buildings and breaking windows in the CBD and French Quarter. They spray-painted and damaged two police cars parked at the 8th District Station on Royal Street.
Much of the damage was in the 200 and 300 blocks of St. Charles Avenue, Harrison said.
Two officers were injured seriously enough to require hospitalization. One was hit in the head with a brick while trying to arrest one of the protesters, Harrison said. The other injured his knee while pursuing a vandal, he said. The severity of the officers' injuries was not clear.
All told, those arrested were booked on 11 counts of felony criminal damage to property, 14 counts of inciting a riot, 14 counts of wearing a mask illegally, three counts of misdemeanor battery on an officer and one count of felony battery on an officer. The criminal damage charges were enhanced due to the historic nature of the buildings damaged.
As Donald Trump was being inaugurated in Washington, D.C., at midday Friday, a brass band wa…
Harrison described the group as “anarchists” based on the symbols they spray-painted, apparently referring to the circled A included in some of the graffiti they left.
The ordinance that bans wearing masks in public, except in specific circumstances including Mardi Gras, is rarely enforced. But that was scheduled to change during Saturday's protest coinciding with the Women’s March against Trump in Washington, D.C.
Harrison said anyone wearing a mask at that protest would be asked to remove it. If they refused, he said, they would be arrested. After dark, he said, “we will arrest every single person we catch with a mask on.”
In the city’s tourist areas, both revelers and street performers often don various disguises.
Relations between police and protesters usually have been relatively cordial in New Orleans in recent years. Police often have blocked off streets and escorted even unplanned and unpermitted marches without significant interference.
Malcolm Suber, one of the organizers of the J20 protest, said, “We have nothing in common with anarchists.”
“We’re trying to unite as many people as possible, so we try to avoid those kinds of unnecessary confrontations,” he said. “We don’t support that kind of wanton destruction of property.”