Baton Rouge police deploy SWAT team, armored tank to disperse protest

BATON ROUGE — Baton Rouge police on Sunday night deployed members of its SWAT team, supported by an armored tank, in a crackdown on protests that signaled an end to a long, tense weekend.

At least 48 people were arrested for obstructing a public road following a protest downtown. Baton Rouge police spokesman Sgt. Don Coppola told The Advocate that officers acted only after protesters started moving toward Interstate 10. They never made it.

The crowd, which later gathered on private property, was eventually ordered to disperse.

The protesters resisted, but a high-intensity siren called the “El Red” finally wore them down. The Advocate quoted a police spokesman who said the department had never been used in Baton Rouge before.

As the weekend progressed, police took an increasingly aggressive approach in dealing with demonstrators. After demonstrating noticeable restraint Friday night, officers dressed in riot gear restricted access Saturday evening to the central gathering space across the street from police headquarters on Airline Highway.

Those already at the protest were essentially sequestered on one street corner. Police arrested 102 protesters along Airline, mostly for walking onto the roadway. One officer had several teeth knocked out by a “projectile thrown from the protest” Saturday night, according to a statement from the police, who confiscated three rifles, three shotguns and two pistols.

“It appears the protest at Baton Rouge Police Headquarters have become more violent as out of town protesters are arriving,” the release stated.

The Advocate of Baton Rouge reported that only 19 of the 132 people arrested since Friday night live out of town.

Among those detained was prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson, who was released Sunday afternoon.

“Last night, we saw the police abuse their power and intentionally provoke protesters in order to create and exploit conflict,” McKesson tweeted.

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