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Black Lives Matter Leader DeRay McKesson freed after arrest in Baton Rouge protest
Prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson has been released from police custody after being arrested at a protest against the shooting death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
McKesson, one of the most recognizable faces to emerge from the Black Lives Matter movement, was walking alongside Airline Highway when he was arrested on Saturday evening.
He was released after 16 hours in jail on Sunday afternoon on bond after being charged with obstructing a highway during a protest, according to the Washington Post.
Although arrested in a shirt with ‘#staywoke’ written on it, McKesson was pictured in a booking photo wearing an orange jumpsuit. ‘The Parrish jail staff had us wear orange jump suits,’ he said on Twitter. ‘I’ve since been told that this is not normal protocol.’
He also revealed the difficulties protesters were facing in being released, claiming the jail was only accepting money orders for bail. ‘Apparently, the Parrish jail is now only taking money orders today & all of the banks are closed,’ he said.
Later on Sunday evening, he headed out to join protesters in Baton, posting pictures on Snapchat and Twitter of a group of demonstrators outside the Triple S Food Smart where Sterling was killed. ‘The sense of community at the Triple S tonight is incredible,’ he said.
The former educator built a national following after he left his home and job in Minneapolis in August 2014 and headed for Ferguson, Missouri, to document the rising anger over race relations after the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
In the wake of his arrest on Saturday, supporters took to Twitter using the hashtag #FreeDeray, which more than 160,000 people had used by Sunday morning.
Orange Is The New Black actress Laverne Cox sent him a message of support on Twitter, saying: ’@deray thinking about you my brother and sending love and prayers to you and everyone fighting for justice. #FreeDeRay.
He later replied: ‘I appreciate you @Lavernecox. I’m out. And now we have to get the rest of the crew released!’
In an interview following his release, McKesson called his arrest ‘unlawful’ and said police want people to be afraid of protesting.
‘The protesters were peaceful last night; the police were not,’ he told the Post.
‘The police want protesters to be too afraid to protest, which is why they intentionally created a context of conflict, and I’ll never be afraid to tell the truth,’ he told the New York Times.
‘What we saw in Baton Rouge was a police department that chose to provoke protesters to create, like, a context of conflict they could exploit.’
Witnesses at the protest described McKesson’s arrest as ‘physically violent’.
‘They tackled him,’ fellow activist Brittany Packnett told the Post. ‘One officer hit the top of his body and another officer the bottom.’
She added that McKesson, who was live-streaming the protests, had been walking down the street with a group of around eight when an officer told him he had been ‘flagged’ and would be arrested if he left the sidewalk again. Moments later, he was arrested.
‘The officers won’t give their names. He was clearly targeted,’ Packnett added.
Footage from McKesson’s camera captured the moments before his arrest.
‘The police continue to just provoke people,’ he says, right before an officer tells him he has been ‘flagged.’
‘You in them loud shoes, if I see you in the road, if I get close to you, you’re going to jail,’ the officer is heard saying.
‘We’re on the shoulder,’ Packnett is heard saying. ‘There is no sidewalk, sir.’
Moments later, an officer is heard saying: ‘City police, you’re under arrest.’
‘What?’ replied McKesson. ‘I’m under arrest, y’all.’
McKesson called a close friend about 5.30am and said he was in ‘okay physical condition,’ the Post reported.
He was one of 102 people, including at least three journalists, who were arrested during the protests in Baton Rouge, the Advocate reported.
Police said they confiscated eight firearms during Saturday’s protests – three rifles, three shotguns and two pistols.
As the protests heated up, one Baton Rouge officer had several of his teeth knocked out ‘as a projectile was thrown from the protest,’ police said.
‘It appears the protest at Baton Rouge Police Headquarters have become more violent as out of town protesters are arriving,’ a police statement said.
Most arrests were in connection with obstruction of a highway, records reviewed by the Advocate show. The majority of the protesters were from Baton Rouge, but there were others from San Francisco, Houston,Virginia and Oklahoma, the paper reported.
‘We’ve been very clear that we want them to have every opportunity to protest and voice their opinion,’ said spokesman Maj. Doug Cain, of the Louisiana State Police. ’But if you move into the roadway and break the law, you’re going to be arrested.’
Protests over the police shootings of two black men have raged for days, with officers on edge after warnings spread of a planned cop-killing ‘purge’.
Anger-fueled demonstrations continued in Baton Rouge, where street seller Alton Sterling, 37, was pinned down and shot by two white police officers on Tuesday morning.
Marches and vigils have taken place every night since then and continued on Saturday night, with furious protesters confronting – and being arrested – by armed police.
The heated confrontation saw lines of police officers come face-to-face with huge crowds of demonstrators, with protest leaders stepping in between the two packs to appeal for calm in scenes that harked back to the civil rights movement.
Officers were on high alert after the FBI noticed social media posts warning of a ‘Baton Rouge Purge.’ According to the rumors, there was just one rule to the violence: ‘Kill every police.’
Fireworks and rocks were thrown at police in St Paul, Minnesota – where Philando Castile was killed by police on Wednesday night – as protests turned violent there. Three cops were injured.
There were more protests against police brutality across the county, including in New York, San Francisco, Denver, Florida, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Rhode Island.
In Baton Rouge, hundreds turned out near Baton Rouge’s police headquarters to demand justice.
Armed officers wearing riot gear blocked the road and arrested a number of protesters who walked towards the line of cops. The protest was tense as police cleared the road so traffic could pass through.
A police spokesman said two firearms were confiscated and several arrests made.
Officers later went back inside their headquarters and traffic reopened.
Baton Rouge resident Marie Flowers came to the protest in with her three children. She said people in the north Baton Rouge neighborhood where the shooting happened are frustrated.
Protesters waved homemade signs while drivers honked their support and some stopped by with bottles of water.
Fury has gripped much of the city’s population since videos emerged appearing to show police officers Howie Lake and Blane Salamoni tackling Sterling to the ground, pinning him down and firing six shots at him.
The 37-year-old father-of-five did not appear to reach for his gun, which was in his pocket.
Tensions boiled over across America again after Philando Castile’s death at the hands of a police officer in St Paul, Minnesota, was live streamed by his girlfriend.
A protest against the two deaths in Dallas was suddenly transformed from a peaceful march into a bloody massacre, when Army veteran Micah Xavier Johnson opened fire on police officers, killing five and injuring seven more, as well as two members of the public.
Sterling’s cousin Tanya Sterling reacted in horror at the slayings of police officers in Dallas, who were protecting protesters marching against her loved one’s death.
‘Nobody in our family would condone any killings,’ she said.
‘We feel for those police officers and their families too because now they know what we are all going through and it ain’t a good place.
‘We have heard about it here and we cannot believe it is getting out of hand like this.
‘All of our time since Alton got shot dead has been spent praying and protesting peacefully. We have never wanted any trouble.’
Protests also continued in St Paul, Minnesota, where Castile was killed on Wednesday.
Hundreds of protesters blocked a freeway and at least one person was injured after fireworks and rocks were thrown at police.
In New York, hundreds of protesters marched on Union Square, chanting ’black lives matter’ and ‘no justice, no peace’.
The protesters kept to the sidewalk at first, but then took to the roads, leading to some arrests for public disorder.
In San Francisco, Bay Bridge was shut off as hundreds of demonstrators tried to march on to the freeway. There were similar protests in Fresno.
A sit-in in protest at the killings continued in Denver, while in Florida Black Lives Matter marches in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale went ahead peacefully. Another protest is expected in Miami on Saturday night.
Several hundred people broke off from Pittsburgh’s 200th anniversary parade to protest recent police shootings across the country, some of whom were affiliated with Black Lives Matter.
In Philadelphia, a group of about 100 protesters marched to two police precincts in the northern part of the city on Saturday.
More than 150 people gathered in downtown Newport, Rhode Island, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
There were more rallies in Salt Lake City, where protesters danced to show they were not a danger to police.