NEW ORLEANS — Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said Friday the NOPD's internal use of force investigation team is looking into whether officers deployed rubber bullets against protestors during a violent confrontation atop the Crescent City Connection bridge Wednesday, after initially denying that the department used anything other than tear gas.
Ferguson's update came two days after Wednesday night's protest, when demonstrators, marching against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd's Minneapolis death while being arrested, stopped eastbound traffic on the CCC and attempted to march across it.
Police stopped the protesters and pushed them back, deploying tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
Protestors reported rubber bullets or other non-lethal projectiles being shot at them, but Ferguson said Thursday his officers had not used any non-lethal weapons against the crowd.
But on Friday, answering a question about video of the protest obtained by the New Orleans Advocate | The Times-Picayune appearing to show a rubber bullet cutting across the frame, Ferguson said the NOPD was reviewing their actions that night.
"If we did, I will own that," he said, adding that the NOPD was working to maintain transparency.
"I think our actions have spoken louder than words," he said. "From day one we have been side by side with the protesters."
He reiterated his request from earlier in the week that protestors not "take the bait" from anybody attempting to incite property damage or violence.
"The protesters themselves have been preventing people from property damage," Ferguson said. "They're like a force multiplier for us."
Mayor LaToya Cantrell stood by her police chief during the press conference, saying that protestors had refused to cooperate with NOPD instructions before they used tear gas.
"When there is a deliberate choice to confront and overstep the guidelines that have been articulated by law enforcement then our department is trained to respond as they need to," she said.
The NOPD pointed to videos from the front line of the protest that show what appears to be protestors shoving at a line of police behind riot shields on the bridge, with a few breaking through the line, as their reason for using force against the demonstrators.
Cantrell said she supported the peaceful protests, but that her administration would not condone any escalation.
"We will stand up with the protesters in solidarity but violence is something we cannot allow," Cantrell said. "We demonstrated how effective our officers are to protect and serve."