Following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police last week, a wave of peaceful protests swept the nation. However, as the arrest of prominent civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson (and countless others) over the weekend sadly showed, not even a peaceful protest is enough to keep police at bay in some cases. Footage of these protests has started infiltrating social media with the troubling realities facing activists in the pursuit of necessary police reform.
One video in particular, taken by journalist Elizabeth Thomas Sunday, allegedly shows exactly how contentious the relationship between police and protesters in Baton Rouge has become.
"When I heard about the protest earlier in the week I felt called to action," Thomas, a graduate of Louisiana State University, told Complex. "The protest was in downtown Baton Rouge. It began at 4 and was led by high school students. Then, when we tried to continue down Government Street, the police stopped us. Then, they bring more officers that where heavily armored, which you can see in my initial video."
According to Thomas, police also reportedly threatened protesters with tear gas and arrests. "The woman across the street said we were allowed to come onto her yard," Thomas told Complex. "Then all of [a] sudden, the police attack us for no reason, which is what you see in my second video. The only violent people were the police."
The officers' alleged behavior, Thomas said, was absolutely heartbreaking. In fact, Thomas said some officers were even "laughing at us while they pointed assault rifles" at the crowd of peaceful protesters. "Their life was not threatened and their use of this type of force really broke my heart," Thomas told Complex.
The footage is made even more troubling when considering the fact that Louisiana recently enacted the controversial Blue Lives Matter law, a move Thomas said is indicative of the state's stance on police reform. "This law protects police under the hate crime law," Thomas told Complex. "Just the name of the law alone is so insulting to me and shows the type of environment Louisiana citizens are subject to."
The Baton Rouge Police Department did not immediately respond to Complex's request for comment.