Pastor, community leaders say there was no need for rubber bullets at protest

Published: Jun. 4, 2020 at 10:20 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - “It seems like this outrage is coming out of nowhere. But it's been there. And they're trying their best to find an outlet to express it."

We sat down with several community leaders who say there wasn't a need for the gas irritants or...
We sat down with several community leaders who say there wasn't a need for the gas irritants or rubber bullets at Wednesday's protest.(WAFF)

Peaceful: that’s how Wednesday night’s protest started off.

“The culture was so peaceful that people in the crowd corrected behavior before it escalated,” Pastor Dexter Strong said.

Pastor Strong says things didn’t take a turn until after police released riot gas.

“The response to those peaceful protests was tear gas or whatever type of irritant gas and rubber bullets,” he said.

Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray says demonstrators were given 90 minutes to disperse.

"It’s darkness coming on when we lose the fight. We have daylight we win. It’s 90 minutes. It’s an unauthorized protest against government. That’s what it is. That’s what anarchists do,” McMurray said.

“I appreciate that they did let us stay until 8 o’clock because they didn’t have to and technically probably weren’t supposed to. But they did,” Erica Washington, a community activist who was at the protest said.

However, Washington says there was no need for the gas or rubber bullets.

"I did see an officer pull out I guess a rubber bullet rifle. And the look on his face is just not what you want to see when you’re standing there peacefully,” she said.

A better idea? Showing some empathy.

“If the officer just took a knee with their shield. It would’ve changed the whole thing. Everybody was like if you do that we’ll go home. That was the chant at 6:40,” said Frederick Whitlow II, director of No More Dirty Incorporated.

Washington says they finally knelt down, but only to get the gas ready.

“Now you're asking me, what caused us to do this. Nothing caused us. They. They by their own refusal to obey a lawful order. This was on them not on us. How many minutes would you like for me to give them and lose this,” Chief McMurray said.

Pastor Strong says this fight is bigger than one protest.

“What we’re experiencing isn’t just a policy crisis. It’s a moral crisis. And we need moral leaders to demand that people with authority lead morally. I would like to see my white clerical colleagues demand that we lead with compassion,” he said.

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