New Orleans police fired tear gas into a crowd of protesters Wednesday night following a brief standoff with protesters as they tried to cross the Crescent City Connection bridge.
The protest — a response to the in-custody killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis — began with a rally in Duncan Plaza, in which speakers called for justice for the victims of police violence, the defunding of the New Orleans Police Department and more affordable housing in the city. Speakers included Alfonso Rowland, brother of Modesto Reyes, who was shot and killed by a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputy last week.
That was followed by march through the Central Business District and up St. Charles Avenue into the Lower Garden District.
Protesters then turned back around and made their way toward the bridge. The large group, which stretched for several city blocks, made their way up a ramp to the Pontchartrain Expressway leading to the bridge at about 9:30 p.m. They were met by a blockade of New Orleans police officers clad in riot gear. A standoff ensued, with protesters urging the officers to let them pass. Protesters remained peaceful throughout the confrontation.
A protester that police allowed to address to the crowd — speaking on a police microphone from behind the line of officers — warned protesters that “the further we go, the more dangerous it gets for us.” However, little was audible over the crowd. Even from the front of the protest, it was difficult to make out anything the woman was saying. Several people in the crowd, standing within about 20 to 30 feet of the woman, shouted that they could not hear her. According to a statement posted on the department’s Twitter account, protesters were ordered three times to turn back. (I was unable to hear any warning that police would use tear gas.)
Around 10:15, some protesters appeared to begin moving forward, and police fired the gas, causing a few moments of panic as hundreds of people tried to run back down the ramp. Several people could be seen crying, covering their eyes and coughing as they made their off the expressway overpass. According to Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate reporter Bryn Stole, who was also at the scene, a small group of protesters remained on the expressway until after 11 p.m.
Wednesday night’s incident followed several days of peaceful protests in New Orleans — one of a number of cities in which people have taken to the streets to protest the killings of black people by police — including a Tuesday night march in which protesters made their way onto Interstate 10.
Photos from Wednesday’s protest and March:
Following the Thursday release of a video of the incident by Mayor LaToya Cantrell, this story was updated to reflect that a protester, standing behind the police barrier, briefly addressed the crowd over a police microphone