DeRay McKesson was arrested Saturday during protests in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and now the detainment of the Black Lives Matter leader has prompted nationwide calls for his release.
McKesson was marching in solidarity with protesters after police shot and killed Alton Sterling, a man who had been selling CDs in a convenience store parking lot in Baton Rouge. Video of the shooting showed police pinning Sterling to the ground when one of the officers yelled that he had a gun, prompting police to shoot him several times. Sterling died of his wounds and video of his death went viral, sparking calls for justice in what many saw as an unnecessary shooting.
The arrest of DeRay McKesson went viral immediately on Saturday night, as the noted activist had been broadcasting live coverage of the protests on Periscope.
Viewers watched as the 31-year-old McKesson narrated the late-night walk through Baton Rouge, then heard as police moved to immediately arrest him.
“City police. You’re under arrest,” a voice could be heard. “Don’t fight me. Don’t fight me.”
DeRay McKesson passed off his camera to another protester, as many demanded that police tell them why he was being arrested. Others noted that his arrest appeared unnecessarily violent.
McKesson is one of the most prominent activists associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, which has arisen in response to police killings of black men and women. McKesson has been a key part of many of the largest protests, and even tried to run for mayor of Baltimore.
As the #FreeDeRay movement picked up steam, a fellow activist noted that the Black Lives Matter leader was still being held.
“As of 5:15 this morning he was physically OK, we are still awaiting his release,” fellow activist Brittany Packnett, who was with DeRay at the time of his arrest, told the New York Times. “Potentially his charges are for obstructing traffic even though everything proves he was behind the white line and was tackled by police behind the white line.”
Packnett added that DeRay was complying with officers at the time he was arrested.
“They told him they would arrest him if he stepped over the line and like every single eye witness and the video prove that he never stepped over that line,” she said.
Packnett later said she believed that police were targeting DeRay McKesson, and that there was no justification for his arrest.
The arrest of DeRay McKesson had an immediate backlash nationwide. Within minutes of his arrest, DeRay’s name was trending on Twitter and the hashtag #FreeDeray was re-tweeted close to 140,000 times.
Some shared pictures and video of McKesson’s arrest, noting that he appeared to be doing nothing wrong at the time police moved in to arrest him.
The #FreeDeRay movement gained many high-profile followers, including celebrities and fellow activists. Even actress Rashida Jones joined in calling for DeRay’s release.
I wish people would protect the First Amendment with the same fervor as they have the Second Amendment. #FreeDeray— Rashida Jones (@iamrashidajones) July 10, 2016
There are now larger efforts to call for the release of DeRay McKesson and the other activists arrested in Baton Rouge. The Louisiana National Lawyers Guild started an online fundraiser to pay for the bail of those arrested, and within hours had already raised more than $6,000.
The page noted that the funds would go to help all of those arrested in the more than two days of protests following Alton Sterling’s death.
“Since Friday, July 8, more than 60 people have been arrested in protests against the killing of Alton Sterling. This is a bail fund to get those protestors out of jail. Surplus funds will be used to cover their legal expenses.”
Despite the growing efforts of the #FreeDeRay movement, DeRay McKesson remained in jail as of Sunday morning.
[Photo by Max Becherer/AP Images]