A rally spurred by the police shooting of 31-year-old Trayford Pellerin Saturday turned into several days of protests around Lafayette, with demonstrators splitting off to block traffic on Evangeline Thruway and in front of the Moss Street police substation as they demanded police accountability and changes to treatment of the Black community.
Protesters filled Ambassador Caffery Parkway on Sunday evening after a 31-year-old man was fatally shot by Lafayette police officers Friday.
Pellerin was shot and killed by Lafayette police officers after a foot pursuit on Evangeline Thruway on Friday. Louisiana State Police said Pellerin was armed with a knife and was approaching the entrance of a gas station convenience store on Chalmette Drive and Northwest Frontage Road when officers opened fire.
The scene at times became tense, with protesters facing a line of Lafayette police officers and Lafayette Parish sheriff’s deputies at Moss Street and surrounding vehicles and hassling drivers on Evangeline Thruway. Law enforcement said in a Saturday night news conference that some small fires were set on the thruway median and fireworks were aimed at buildings.
People at times threw water bottles and rocks at police vehicles and other passing traffic. Around 8:30 p.m., officers fired smoke grenades into the crowd on Moss Street and arrested three protesters.
At least 50 protesters staged a sit-in outside of Lafayette City Hall on Monday after the death of Trayford Pellerin at the hands of police.
While there were periods of aggression, attendees said their goal was to bring attention to their feelings of pain and injustice, not to enact violence or harm the city.
Sam Flugence, a Lafayette attorney, gave several impassioned speeches to protesters blocking the intersection at Northwest Evangeline Thruway and Willow Street on Saturday, encouraging people both to be disciplined in their commitment to sustaining the movement for change and to look beyond protesting to exercising their civic duties through voting and engagement with local government.
Flugence said she joined the protesters on the thruway because she wanted to help inspire action and offer direction. While out there, she challenged the group to hold their line across the road. She said afterward action like marching on the roadway is necessary because people often don’t pay attention to what’s happening outside their bubble until you get their attention.
“The community is saying this is an important situation, and I need you to stop and pay attention to it. You have not paid attention to our grievances,” Flugence said.
The attorney said she hopes people from all perspectives and walks of life will come to the table to commit to change.
“I think Lafayette is a community that has the ability, the building blocks and tools, to really set an example for America. I’ve lived here all my adult life and I’ve met many people from many different backgrounds, and everybody wants to learn, everybody wants to come to the table,” she said.
Junica Taylor, an Abbeville resident, was one of the people in the crowd of roughly 150 protesters alongside Flugence on the Northwest Evangeline Thruway. Taylor said the video of Pellerin’s shooting made her stomach turn and she felt it was the latest example of a Black person being met with unnecessary violence when alternate action could be taken to preserve their life.
Taylor said her 22-year-old son has faced repeated harassment and discrimination while delivering packages for FedEx. Once, while delivering a package in Erath, a man stopped his vehicle on a dead end road and threatened to kill him if he saw him on that street again. She said they reported the incident, but police action was never taken.
“I have to worry if my child is going to come home from doing his job every day. Why do we have to worry about our kids leaving the house just because of the color of their skin?” Taylor said.
“We shouldn’t have to take these measures to get somebody’s attention. This is absurd,” she said.
Lafayette resident Clyde Simien said he hasn’t been the type to get involved in activism or protest work before. Simien was among the group marching to the Lafayette Police Department substation on Moss Street. He said he’s attended protests before but usually hung around the back and wasn’t vocal, but recently he’s been feeling a tug to do more.
Simien said he thought it was important to get into the streets to send a message. He didn’t want things to turn violent or destructive, but he said visibility, numbers and activity like marching in the streets were needed to wake people up and get the point across to the community that there needs to be change in race relations and the treatment of Black people.
The 26-year-old said since his teen years he’s seen news of high-profile killings of Black men and boys around the country and having a similar situation occur in Lafayette was jarring.
“It just keeps getting closer and closer. First, it’s 10 states away. Then it’s five states away. Then it’s in my state. Then it’s in my city, and next thing I know it’s going to be somebody I know or it’s going to be me,” Simien said.
The Lafayette resident said he’d like to see people in authority like Mayor-President Josh Guillory and people with community respect and positions of influence, such as attorneys like his father and uncle, be more engaged with what’s happening and speak to the issues.
“Everybody that has a voice in this community, that’s Black, that’s White, that’s anything, say something about it,” he said.