New Orleans Police Superintendent, Shaun Ferguson defended the use of tear gas on protesters Wednesday night. Tear gas was deployed against protesters during a late night encounter in New Orleans only after demonstrators tried to forcibly cross police lines on an approach to a Mississippi River bridge, the police chief said Thursday.
"We did not attack anyone. We did not deploy gas on a peaceful protest. We did deploy gas on individuals who chose to use force against our officers when they were simply trying to protect the lives of our citizens and anyone else who chose to exercise their constitutional rights. That line was formed with the purpose of safety and safety only," he said.
Ferguson began Thursday's news conference by showing video of police discussing the situation with protest leaders — and allowing protest leaders to address the crowd using police public address systems. He emphasized that one woman addressing the crowd refused to advise demonstrators not to attempt to cross. On the video, an organizer could be heard telling men to get to the front of the line ahead of the attempt to cross the police line. Ferguson said leaders also advised women to remove jewelry before attempt to cross the police line were made.
Ferguson said three New Orleans residents were arrested along with two out-of-towners, one from Belgium and one from Massachusetts. The Wednesday night demonstration was one of the continuing protests around the nation arising from the police custody death of George Floyd. Ferguson expressed sympathy with the protesters' cause. He also said police must continue to improve relations with the community – but not through violence. New Orleans continues to implement reforms under a federal court agreement reached with the U.S. Justice Department.