SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A Black Lives Matter protest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody drew a large and emotional crowd Sunday in Shreveport.
There were no arrests and no reports of violence during the demonstration, which began with a gathering at the Greyhound station across from Shreveport Police headquarters on Murphy Street just before noon and continued with a march to the Caddo Parish courthouse downtown.
Protesters carried signs and chanted slogans demanding police be held accountable for the deaths of people of color at the hands of law enforcement. Speakers on the courthouse steps called for protests to remain peaceful, but vowed to continue them for the next 45 days.
At one point, protesters say three white men with Confederate flags showed up and placed them on the statute on the front lawn of the courthouse.
“Ignore the agitators. You know what you stand for!” said one of the protest organizers speaking from the courthouse steps.
“On this very courthouse step, Ella Baker stood after Martin Luther King, Jr. said he would never come back, she came back and she organized sustained action for 60 days to make sure that everyone was able to register to vote. People died. People swung from these trees that we stand in front of. But yet they came,” said Omari Ho-Sang. “So I ask you to ignore or encourage with grace those who tell you not to come out and protest because it is very much your right to protest, to raise your voice, but also recognize today is the beginning. This is day one! Tomorrow, because they tell us we have to wait for investigations, we tell them we will march, protest, and organize action for 45 days until we gain the results of not only an investigation, of not only an arrest but until the system is abolished in every corner of every city in this nation, in this state. We will organize!”
Ho-Sang encouraged people to join the 45 Days of Action – Shreveport Facebook group, where information and guidance and support for organizers on what those actions will be.
Shreveport police were present during the demonstration and at one point an officer was seen reaching out to comfort a young protester. She and the officer had an emotional connection on the courthouse lawn.
Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins said in a statement posted to Facebook late Sunday morning that “The City of Shreveport and SPD respects the First Amendment rights of all citizens to peaceably assemble and seek meaningful change. We will do all that we can to help facilitate safe demonstrations.”
Perkins did not make an appearance during the protest, which was noted by protestors chanting, “Where’s the mayor?”
Protests over Floyd’s death have spread around the United States as his case renewed anger over others involving African Americans, police, and race relations.
In Shreveport, an investigation is underway into comments about the case made on social media by an SPD officer. Mayor Adrian Perkins and police chief Ben Raymond addressed both Floyd’s death and the investigation involving the officer on Thursday, urging patience with the process and denouncing the actions of the Minneapolis officers.
In addition to plans for town hall meetings to provide an opportunity for citizens and police officers to discuss national and local events that prompt investigations into law enforcement practices, policies, and procedures, Perkins also announced that he is creating a 22 member Commission on Race and Cultural Diversity, which will begin work in June on how to build trust between SPD and the community of color.