NEW ORLEANS — NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson strongly defended the actions of his police force after protesters at the top of the Crescent City Connection were teargassed Wednesday during a night of protests that seem to be growing in size and intensity.
Ferguson immediately played social media videos that he said showed protesters physically pushing at his officers after being told they would not be allowed to cross the Crescent City Connection Bridge.
Ferguson showed another tape that said he and his force were working with protest leaders to try to get them to ask their folks to disperse. The video showed a young woman warning the protesters of what the police were planning, but not asking them to leave.
Ferguson said that some people were hospitalized from the tear gas and that five people were arrested - three from New Orleans, one from Belgium and one from Massachusetts..
"It appears as though the behavior has escalated," he said, noting that the first couple of nights of protests were limited to the ground before the marchers went on to I-10 Tuesday night and then onto the Crescent City Connection Wednesday. "We don't know what they're planning to do tonight."
Ferguson said that New Orleans had been a "beacon of light" for the peaceful protests with people from around the country asking the secret to the city's ability to keep the protests peaceful.
"We tarnished that image last night," he said.
While the New Orleans Police Department addressed the tear gassing on Twitter during the protests, there is contention about the use of rubber bullets on civilians. Ferguson was adamant that his officers used no rubber bullets.
NOTE: Video includes some vulgarity
NOPD officials say they were forced to use the gas to disperse the crowd after a handful of people began trying to shove through the police line on the bridge.
NOPD Chief Shaun Ferguson and police leaders are scheduled to address the protests and the department's use of force at 11 a.m. Thursday, outside the NOPD headquarters on Broad Street.
Protests in New Orleans had been among the more peaceful ones with police often closing the roads for marchers and Tuesday night officers even knelt when they met with protesters who closed down I-10 temporarily for traffic.
NOPD officers use tear gas to disperse protesters blocking CCC
Check back at 11 a.m. to watch that press conference live