A protest in response to Lafayette Police killing an African American man Trayford Pellerin ended with smoke grenades and flash bangs on Saturday, Aug. 22.
Outcry over the death of Trayford Pellerin began after a video went viral on social media depicting police officers firing 11 rounds at Pellerin, who had a knife, as he was walking away from police and entering the Shell Station. He was taken to the hospital where he later died. He was 31 years old.
After a vigil at the place of the shooting, the Shell Station on Northwest Frontage Road and Chalmette Drive, protesters marched down Evangeline Thruway against many of the event organizers’ wishes.
Despite the event organizers’ concerns, Joekerro Sion said he wasn’t worried.
“Man, I've seen this my whole life. I'm not really nervous about the police,” Sion said.
Protesters stopped when they reached East Willow Street, where they blocked the intersection. Local Attorney Sam Flugence encouraged protesters to hold their positions as traffic ground to a halt.
“The only thing we need to do right now is hold the line,” Flugence said.
She also asked protesters to continue their activism for the sake of the victim’s family.
“They need your prayers, they need your discipline, they need you to not sleep at night,” she said.
The protesters later marched back to the Shell Station where they crossed the street and formed a new blockade along Southeast Evangeline Thruway. The police who were stationed there quickly fled, but not before protesters threw water bottles and rocks at their vehicles.
An 18-wheeler, which was stopped at the blockade, lunged forward at the protesters in an attempt to cross the line, which prompted some protesters to throw water bottles at the truck. However, the tension with the 18-wheeler’s driver dissipated quickly, as the protesters decided to let him through.
Shortly after, some protesters separated themselves from the group and began heading to the police substation on Moss Street. They were met by police in riot gear at the intersection of East Pine Street and Moss Street who ordered protesters to disperse within 10 minutes. Police then fired smoke grenades and flash bangs into the crowd. According to the Acadiana Advocate, at least two protesters were arrested.
Local officials said some shot fireworks at buildings and started fires on the median of the road.
Mayor-President Josh Guillory criticized the protesters at a press conference later that night.
“We are a peaceful community and we will give up not a single inch of the city of Lafayette or the parish of Lafayette. We’re different. This isn’t Seattle, this isn’t other cities across the country. We respect the rule of law,” Guillory said.
Guillory did not address the Pellerin family in his press conference, and didn’t allow NAACP leaders or other community activists to attend the press conference.
“We came to the press conference because our elected officials, the people who we pay our tax dollars to, were making statements about something that we were involved in, very involved in, today. And we were escorted out because they told us that the mayor said that this was a private press conference,” Marja Broussard, the President of the Lafayette Chapter of the NAACP said. “We are not like other communities. We are a lot worse than other communities when it comes to race relations, because our mayor, I'll say it, our mayor is racist. Everything that he has done since he's been in office has impacted the African American community negatively. And there's time for this to stop.”