Police arrest 130 in Baton Rouge at protest over police shootings


Around 130 people have been arrested in Baton Rouge as demonstrations continue over shootings by police.

With officers with rifles trying to keep protesters off a major road, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said he was “very proud” of the law enforcement response to marches over the fatal shooting of a black man by white police officers in the city.

Mr Edwards said he does not believe officers have been overly aggressive by using riot gear to push protesters off a highway.

“The police tactics in response have been very moderate. I’m very proud of that,” said the Democratic governor, who comes from a family of sheriffs.

Tensions between black citizens and police have risen over the past week amid police shootings of African-American men in Minnesota and Louisiana and the gunning down of five white police officers by a black suspect in Dallas in apparent retaliation.

“I remain disappointed in the Baton Rouge police, who continue to provoke protesters for peacefully protesting,” said DeRay Mckesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist who embraced supporters on Sunday after spending the night in jail.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, with this police department specifically.”

Baton Rouge police spokesman Don Coppola blamed some violence and the large number of arrests on outside agitators.

One officer lost teeth to a projectile thrown outside police headquarters, and police also confiscated three rifles, three shotguns and two pistols during that protest, he said.

“It appears the protest at Baton Rouge Police Headquarters have become more violent as out of town protesters are arriving,” he said.

But most of those detained live in Louisiana and faced a single charge of obstructing a highway, sheriff’s spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said.

The trouble reached well beyond Louisiana. In Minnesota, authorities said 21 St Paul police officers and six state troopers were hurt and about 100 people were arrested late on Saturday and early Sunday during clashes over the police killing of Philando Castile.

There was very little violence by comparison in Baton Rouge.

“I can assure everyone we are hearing the protesters,” the governor said. “We are listening to their voices. But I’m especially gratified that our citizens here in Louisiana, to a very large degree, have decided to protest in a constructive and peaceful manner.”

In Louisiana, Saturday’s demonstration began at the convenience store where 37-year-old Alton Sterling was killed by police.

Members of the New Black Panther Party for Self Defence called for the arrest of the officers involved in Mr Sterling’s death. The Justice Department has launched a civil rights investigation.

“These are human rights violations,” Krystal Muhammad shouted to the crowd at the convenience store.

“They are not operating as human beings. They are being predators on our communities across America.”

The list of those arrested released by the sheriff’s office included two homeless people, and 18 are from out of state, including Mr Mckesson. The vast majority of the Louisiana residents were from the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas.

Kira Marrero, 21, of New Orleans, charged with obstructing a highway, said she did nothing of the sort.

“I have no doubt in my mind that I did nothing wrong,” said the 2015 graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts.

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