Police arrest Justice for Jaheim protesters after group enters Gulfport City Hall. See videos.

  • In US
  • 2023-02-03 04:38:45Z
  • By Biloxi Sun Herald

Gulfport police officers - some with tactical gear, zip ties for restraining people and a gun that shoots bean bags - arrested five protesters Thursday upset about the killing of a Black Coast teenager.

The arrests happened after the group entered City Hall demanding justice, transparency and the release of camera footage of the October 8 shooting outside Family Dollar that resulted in the death of 15-year-old Jaheim McMillan.

Officials, including Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes, said the protesters were not interested in a civil discussion about the case. Hewes and Gulfport Police Chief Adam Cooper both said they thought the police response was appropriate for the situation.

About 40 to 50 people - all unarmed - were outside City Hall just after 3 p.m. Thursday, officials said.

At 3:01 p.m., local Black Lives Matter activist Marquell Bridges and about a dozen other protesters entered the building, began shouting and were asked to stay behind a barrier that separates public areas from restricted areas, officials said. In City Hall footage shown to the Sun Herald, many of the protesters were holding phones and recording the situation, chanting phrases including "No justice, no peace" and "F--- the police."

The protesters did not comply with requests to exit the building and employees soon called police. City Hall was placed on lock down as some of the protesters followed the city clerk into a back area of City Hall. At that point, officials said employees were fearful of bodily harm.

"It was all designed to be a confrontation," Hewes said, "and they got one."

All the protesters eventually exited City Hall, but police officers met the protesters near the steps outside.

Four protesters were arrested Thursday, Feb.
Four protesters were arrested Thursday, Feb.  

Video footage shows arrests near City Hall

In footage of the arrests, police officers are seen wrestling one woman to the ground and restraining her with zip ties. Two police officers are later seen escorting a woman away with something wrapped around her chest to restrain her.

Three were charged with disturbing the peace, a misdemeanor, and the other was charged with a felony for hitting an officer in the eye with a bullhorn, Cooper said.

Among those arrested was Bridges, a chief activist who often travels around the state to protest alleged brutality involving police, mostly with Black victims.

Police said none of the people arrested had local addresses.

In an interview with the Sun Herald, Cooper said he was aware of at least seven previous peaceful protests connected to the McMillan case over the last several months. At one of the demonstrations outside City Hall, Cooper said police blocked off the roadway so men, women and children would not have to worry about passing cars.

At one of the protests on Pass Road, Cooper said, at least a few people were armed assault rifles.

Cooper said police had no idea what they were walking into Thursday night, only that there was a disturbance at City Hall with multiple protesters. He said the police response that included tactical gear, shields and at least one officer with a bean bag shotgun was appropriate "for the safety of the officers and the safety of the protesters. The main goal was to diffuse the situation."

Tyre Nichols case

A witness who saw the protesters said the group of mostly women, men, and young teens had been protesting for a while, mostly chanting the name of Tyre Nichols in memory of a young man killed after a run-in with Memphis police officers.

"They were yelling, 'Tyre,'" and all of a sudden, like 50 cops with riot gear and those shields start chasing them down," she said. "You've got kids running hysterically, and they are chasing them down."

Protesters were also chanting Jaheim's name outside when police arrived, the witness said.

Gulfport officials said the situation at City Hall is not comparable to the Nichols case.

No guns were drawn or fired in the arrests on Thursday, and all of the protesters were unarmed. Cooper and Hewes condemned the police officers involved in the killing of Nichols, saying what happened in Memphis was "criminal."

During and in the aftermath of the encounter with police, video footage of the police arrests was posted to the "Justice for Jaheim" Facebook page by protesters outraged over what they had witnessed.

Since last year, Gulfport police have come under intense pressure to release the police video footage of McMillan's death as the case has been investigated by state officials.

Hewes said he's hopeful that the investigation is nearing an end and that footage will be released to the public by the end of the month.

The Sun Herald reached out to Sean Tindell, commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, to find out when the public will be able to see the footage of the shooting involving Jaheim McMillan.


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