Tensions rise as crowd of protesters gathered near BRPD headquarters

Crowd of protesters gather near BRPD headquarters for demonstration
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A peaceful protest became agitated as law enforcement had to break a large crowd of protestors who were demonstrating on the streets around the Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters.

The unscheduled protest, which started around 3 p.m. Friday, comes a day before a planned protest is set to occur. It is related to the death of Alton Sterling, who died early Tuesday morning after he was shot by a BRPD officer outside the Triple S Food Mart.

Organizations said they wanted the department's attention and chose to move to the headquarters because they felt as if they were not being heard at their previous spot near the store.

Protesters said they will not stop protesting until they see justice. Many are chanting things like "Black Lives Matter" and "No justice, no peace."

Overall, things were calm and peaceful, but the presence from law enforcement grew as the number of protestors continued to climb. BRPD along with Louisiana State Police and East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office responded to the scene with SWAT, in riot gear, to try to keep protestors from walking in the lanes of Airline Hwy.

BRPD looked into reports of a police officer who pulled a gun on one protester Friday night.

BRPD spokesperson L'Jean McKneely released a statement saying,

"We are reviewing the video. It's difficult to tell why the officer pulled his weapon. We are working to identify this officer so we can better understand the reason he might have done this. After the Dallas murder of five officers at a protest the night before officers are very cautious and on the lookout for any threat. Tensions were very high last night on both sides. But in the end cooler heads prevailed. We want to thank those community leaders that stepped up to help keep citizens and officers from getting injured."

According to Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. stated that they have identified the officer involved and they will be speaking with him. He did not release the name of the officer.

Officials said a few protestors were arrested after going into the street despite being warned not to do so.

Police attempted to get protestors to leave around 10 p.m. with organizers trying to come to an agreement where if police would leave, they would disperse. BRPD gave a final warning for the crowd to break up just before 10 p.m.

However, several protesters continued to linger in the gas station parking lot across from the headquarters for several hours. Traffic was closed at Airline Hwy near the headquarters for about 30 minutes while police were getting a majority of the protestors to leave the area.

An EBRSO prison transport was brought to the scene of the protest as police arrested a number of other people during late hours of the protest. No word yet on what charges the people could be facing.

"We've set up barricades around the building to prevent individuals from coming onto the actual property and that's for our safety as well as the public and protesters' safety," explained Cpl. L'Jean McKneely with BRPD. "All officers will be working this weekend. It's just a precautionary measure due to the incidents that occurred in Dallas."

All non-essential personnel for BRPD were allowed to leave early for the day.

"At headquarters, we have a lot of the clerical workers here," Cpl. McKneely explained. "They process a lot of the paperwork and meet with individuals who come looking for reports. If there were protesters of an unnumbered amount coming, we didn't want our non-police personnel to have to stay in the building if they were blocking the entrance and exit of the building."

BRPD headquarters is located at the old Woman's Hospital on Airline Hwy.

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