Police, Protesters Square Off In Baton Rouge

by Morgan Brinlee

Police and protesters faced off in Louisiana in a tense standoff that lasted well into Saturday's pre-dawn hours. An estimated 31 people were arrested overnight Friday during a protest against police brutality in Baton Rouge, Louisiana State Police told the Times-Picayune. The city has seen multiple largely peaceful protests since Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police Tuesday.

Police in riot gear responded to several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the Baton Rouge Police Department late Friday in an ongoing protest against officer-involved shootings. Police sought to keep protesters from blocking street traffic, according to a report from the Huffington Post. At one point during the night, protesters managed to temporarily block traffic as they marched, arms linked together in a human chain, down Airline Highway.

Although several heated verbal exchanges reportedly broke out between protesters and police throughout the night's demonstration, there have been no reports of violence or injuries. A few protesters lobbed frozen water bottles at police, Louisiana State Police spokesman Lt. J.B. Slaton told the Times-Picayune. Thirty-one people were arrested during the protest, according to police, though it is unclear what charges they will face, if any.

Tensions ran high when one officer reportedly pulled his gun out and pointed it at protesters. Baton Rouge Police are reviewing a video of the incident, but Lt. Jonny Dunnam told the Advocate it did appear the officer in question had pulled his handgun. "It's difficult to tell why the officer pulled his weapon," Dunnam said. "We are working to identify this officer so we can better understand the reason he might have done this." Noting that "tensions were very high" throughout the protest, Dunnam said officers in Baton Rouge were "very cautious and on the lookout for any threat" following a fatal attack on law enforcement officers during a protest Thursday in Dallas.

According to the Advocate, protesters had largely dispersed from the area outside police headquarters by 1:45 a.m. Saturday.

Friday was the fourth straight night of protests in Baton Rouge following Sterling's death and reportedly the first time demonstrations were met with a heavy police presence. Sterling, a 37-year-old man, was shot and killed by police outside of a convenience store Tuesday after officers responded to a call he had brandished a gun at a homeless man who approached him begging for spare change. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Thursday the Department of Justice would lead a criminal investigation into Sterling's death with a federal civil rights investigation also being launched.