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Dozens arrested in Louisiana amid police shootings protest

Published 11/07/2016

Police arrest activist DeRay McKesson during a protest in Baton Rouge (AP)
Police arrest activist DeRay McKesson during a protest in Baton Rouge (AP)

Nearly 200 arrests have been made in Louisiana's capital city Baton Rouge as protests took place around the US over police killings of young black men.

Officers in full riot gear stopped a group of protesters in Baton Rouge from walking onto an interstate road route on Sunday evening, thwarting a tactic which activists have attempted in several US cities in order to block traffic.

Further protests are expected throughout Monday.

Tensions between black citizens and police have risen since last week's killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota by white officers, as well as an apparently retaliatory attack by a black sniper in Dallas which killed five officers and wounded several others.

DeRay Mckesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist who was released from jail on Sunday following his arrest at a Baton Rouge protest, accused city police of provoking protesters.

Mr Mckesson said he hopes the US justice department, which already is investigating Sterling's death, also reviews how Baton Rouge police have treated protesters.

He said: "There's a lot of work to be done, with this police department specifically."

More than 1,000 people left a Black Lives Matter rally in Memphis, Tennessee, and walked up a bridge over the Mississippi River on Sunday night, temporarily blocking all traffic on Interstate 40.

At a California protest, hundreds of people poured into the streets of Inglewood late on Sunday, blocking traffic for several minutes on the 405 Freeway. Authorities told the Los Angeles Times there were no arrests and no reports of violence.

Elsewhere, hundreds blocked a segment of Interstate 94 in Minneapolis-St Paul on Saturday, while hundreds more also blocked motorists recently on part of Interstate 264 in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Demonstrators have also tried but failed in recent days to block highways in Atlanta and Columbia, South Carolina.

Some government and law enforcement officials have been outspoken in seeking to discourage protesters from blocking traffic.

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley said: "While I appreciate the peaceful intent of this weekend's rallies, I'd ask that we not put our fellow citizens or law enforcement at risk - which is exactly what attempting to block highways does."

In Louisiana, some 2,000 people rallied outside the Capitol building on Sunday, State Police Major Doug Cain said, calling that initial protest "very organised and peaceful".

Then, by Sunday night, a few hundred people aimed for an on-ramp of Interstate 110 in Baton Rouge.

After a lengthy stand-off, police in riot gear moved in, pinning some of the protesters as others fled. Approximately 50 people were taken into custody for trying to block a highway.

Baton Rouge police spokesman Sgt Don Coppola had blamed the large number of arrests on people coming to Baton Rouge from other cities.

Police have confiscated three rifles, three shotguns and two pistols during protests, he wrote in an email.

New Orleans residents accounted for nearly half of the people who were arrested at protests that started Sunday in Baton Rouge. Twelve of them are listed as residents of other states or the District of Columbia.

One officer was injured by a projectile in the weekend protests, authorities said.

At a press conference before Sunday's arrests near the interstate, Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards said he was "very proud" of his state's law enforcement response.

Mr Edwards added he did not believe using riot gear to push protesters away from a highway was overly aggressive.

"I can assure everyone we are hearing the protesters," the governor said.

"We are listening to their voices. But I'm especially gratified that our citizens here in Louisiana, to a very large degree, have decided to protest in a constructive and peaceful manner."

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From Belfast Telegraph