Huntsville police chief spends hours explaining response to protests

Updated: Jun. 18, 2020 at 10:53 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray went through his department’s response to each protest from May 30 to June 5 in detail.

Chief Mark McMurray spent more than three hours outlining why officers used force to get...
Chief Mark McMurray spent more than three hours outlining why officers used force to get protesters to disperse.(WAFF)

He went through the constant preparation before, during and then assessment after each protest.

For every one of these events, they analyzed any and all evidence they could find, rumors, tips, emails, you name it.

“This information we received caused us to make some very hard decisions. But they had to be made to protect the citizens of Huntsville and the city.”

For nearly four hours, McMurray defended how his officers responded to protests.

The one that took the most time to comb through, the Protest Against Police Brutality on Wednesday June 3.

“I read somewhere that you can get a leaf blower and blow the pepper spray gas back at them. They are having a conversation about trying to defeat police officers,” he said.

McMurray says ANTIFA influencers were preparing for the rally.

“They watched our activity from Monday and they’re actually setting up their aide station just outside where they think our perimeter is going to stop,” he said.

He showed social media posts and comments posted before the event that included threats.

Council member Frances Akridge asked why McMurray insisted the crowd disperse.

“The 98 percent that the mayor talked about simply wanted to be there and chant. They wanted to be there to have a sense of solidarity,” Akridge said.

“Blocking the road past dark, shutting down the businesses downtown is just something we don’t need to continue to tolerate,” McMurray said.

McMurray says they were very patient and used the least amount of force possible.

Officers eventually began using smoke first, followed by tear gas. We’ve received multiple pictures showing injuries from rubber bullets. McMurray did not mention these.

McMurray says the department is having extensive conversations about how to improve in the future.

“We are doing everything possible to make Huntsville an exclusive community to all. I understand we can do better. We can always do better,” he said.

Council President Devyn Keith says he is challenging the chief to increase accountability.

McMurray says they are opening a separate building for people to peacefully report complaints to officers in plain clothes, so people feel more comfortable.

He hopes that happens by August, maybe September.

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