DeRay McKesson, one of the most prominent activists associated with the police reform protest movement, is in police custody in Baton Rouge, where he traveled earlier today to demonstrate in solidarity with residents angered by the recent death of Alton Sterling after an officer-involved shooting that was captured on video.
McKesson was taken into custody around 11 p.m. in what two fellow activists who witnessed it described as a physically violent arrest.
According to those activists, Mckesson is currently – as of 11:30 p.m. – one of a group of 34 people being held in an armored police transport vehicle.
“The officers won’t give their names,” said Brittany Packnett, one of Mckesson’s co-founders of the group Campaign Zero, a prominent activist collective. “He was clearly targeted.”
Packnett said McKesson was using his smartphone to live stream the ongoing protests when police began forcibly dispersing the crowds. As McKesson and a group of about 8 people walked down the street an officer approached him and told him that he had been “flagged” and that if he left the sidewalk again he would be arrested.
Moments later, she said, two officers forcefully arrested McKesson.
“They tackled him, one officer hit the top of his body and another officer the bottom,” Packnett said.
The altercation knocked the phone from Mckesson’s hand, ending his live broadcast of the demonstration, she said.
Blurry video of the moments before Mckesson’s arrest provided to The Washington Post captures his verbal exchange with the officers.
“The police continue to just provoke people,” McKesson said after an officer yells to a group of people that if they step on the roadway they will be arrested.
Then an officer says the man in the “loud shoes” has been “flagged” and that if they see him in the street again he’d be arrested.
McKesson is known for wearing a pair of red Nike sneakers and a blue vest to all protests he attends.
The group was walking away from a protest and rally that had been dispersed, traveling alongside road traffic on a street that they said does not have a sidewalk.
Activists continue to talk as the walk up the side of the street. Moments later an officers voice is heard.
“City police you’re under arrest,”
“What?!” McKesson exclaims. “I’m under arrest y’all.”
Then the video and audio feed cuts out.
As Packnett and Johnetta Elzie, another prominent protester, tweeted in outrage word spread quickly through the ranks of national police reform activists – many who fear that McKesson had been targeted deliberately and may be harmed in police custody.
There is no word yet on what charges McKesson may be facing.