Tensions hit their peak in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, late Saturday night when police officers armed with military equipment tried to clear those gathered for a demonstration from the streets and highway.
One officer, armed with an assault weapon, deliberately aimed the gun at protesters and journalists, forcing them to retreat. HuffPost senior crime reporter David Lohr was among them.
Lohr arrived in Baton Rouge earlier this week to help capture moments from the Black Lives Matter protests that took over the city’s streets. He launched a live-stream on the HuffPost Black Voices Facebook page around 11 p.m. that captured some tense moments, including police making several arrests and one protester getting shocked by a stun gun. In one jarring moment, Lohr captured an officer pointing her assault rifle at protesters ― and at him.
“An officer just pointed a machine gun at me,” Lohr says in the live-stream. “I’m not quite sure what that female officer was doing; she pointed an assault rifle at us.”
Watch the moment around the 4:45 mark:
Baton Rouge protesters were outraged over the officers’ actions on Saturday night, including prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson, who was arrested at the protest during a moment he captured live on Periscope. Prior to his arrest, Mckesson tweeted about the demonstration and described how police were “provoking protesters.”
Other demonstrators sent similar messages.
“They’re trying to kill us. We are peaceful,” one protester, who didn’t give her name, told Lohr in the video. “They want a reason to shoot us down in the street, but we’re not gonna give them one. We’re gonna remain peaceful. But we’re out here and we’re not afraid.”
“They want to be able to say we’re savages. Never,” she added. “We’re warriors.”
Hundreds gathered for protests in Baton Rouge, and cities across America, to protest the recent police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile ― and declare that black lives matter.
Protesters chanted “No justice, no peace” and “F*ck the police” as they marched through Baton Rouge, where Sterling was killed days earlier. Officers blocked off roads to prevent marchers from going down the highway and forcefully arrested those who failed to move.
“One thing I noticed today as opposed to yesterday is that [cops] were certainly more willing to pull their firearms out,” Lohr observed in the video after things seemed to have calmed down a bit.
Lohr, who was warned to “back up” and “move out of the road,” headed to the Baton Rouge Police Department, where more demonstrators were still gathered. He launched another live-stream on the Black Voices Facebook page to document those moments:
Lohr stayed around the area into the early morning to help kids and college students pick up trash at the protest site.
Hundreds of protesters spent the night in jail, and thousands of others are still reeling from the chaos that erupted both in Baton Rouge and in cities like St. Paul, Minnesota, the site of Castile’s death. HuffPost reporter Kim Bellware captured the unrest and police violence there in a series of tweets.
More protests across the country are expected in the days ahead.