Delicate Balance Shifting in Baton Rouge
With chants of “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” and “Black Lives Matter!”, protest marches and rallies in the wake of the Alton Sterling shooting continued in Louisiana’s capital city Sunday.
“Right now we are hurt, enraged, and beyond ready for a change. We need to take these strong feelings and turn it into motivation,” one teen-aged speaker at a rally on the Capitol steps said, earning cheers and applause from the crowd of several thousand.
Just an hour before, Governor John Bel Edwards applauded the Baton Rouge community for its commitment to keeping the demonstrations peaceful.
“In our state and throughout our country, peaceful protest can be a force for good,” the governor said. “And I can assure everyone that we are hearing the protestors. We are listening to their voices.”
He was addressing the media over security concerns following more than 130 arrests made over the weekend. The governor attributed that to the presence of outside protestors.
“Folks who are not from our community, and I believe, who have motives for being here that are inconsistent with most of the folks in Baton Rouge.”
Among those arrested, Black Lives Matter organizer Deray McKesson, and a reporter from our sister station, WWNO.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie was asked about the arrests.
“Everyone who was arrested was in the street, and we just can’t allow them to block the highway,” Dabadie explained.
He was also asked why officers who conducted the arrests were fully arrayed in riot gear, as some of the protestors felt that escalated the tensions.
“These officers are highly trained in riot control,” he stated. “We’re not antagonistic. We’re being very efficient for the safety of our officers and for the protestors.”
And as large group returning from their march to the state Capitol filled a main roadway downtown Suday evening, officers in riot gear were deployed again – this time reportedly armed with tear gas grenades and rubber bullets.
The chants the protestors threw back at officers made it clear delicate balance in Baton Rouge tension is shifting.
“No justice – no peace – no racist police!” the protestors shouted, over and over.