HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - 48 News has confirmed tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and flash bangs were all used to clear protesters from Huntsville city streets Wednesday night after police said the protest permit expired.
The Huntsville police chief and the Madison County sheriff told us the protest permit expired at 6:30 causing anything later to be considered an unlawful assembly.
Both top cops said protesters were given ample warning before tear gas was deployed on city streets. Police said some of the people who stayed after being asked to leave were dressed ready for combat. According to police, the protesters on the front lines were confrontational and refused to leave even when police asked them to go home.
Many of our viewers reached out to us saying the protest last night was peaceful and they didn’t understand why police decided to use force. When we asked why officers tear gassed the crowd Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray said, “90 minutes over and over. We’d been wrapping it up. We started out all our officers were in the courthouse. You didn’t see any of them. Then we brought them out and they still didn’t change their mind. We brought the troopers out, still didn’t change their minds. I mean how many warnings do you give before you lose your sunset. I had 30 minutes left to clear downtown Huntsville.”
Police say about 50 people traveled to Downtown Huntsville to introduce chaos into what should have been a peaceful protest. McMurray called them anarchists, and said they traveled from Virginia and Georgia to destroy and loot our community. Twenty-four people were arrested Wednesday night, all residents of Madison County.
He said the anarchist groups traveled to Madison County, got the crowd going and then were able to swiftly leave to avoid arrests. He revealed law enforcement officers found anti-government symbols across downtown, and destructive items were found on city streets.
McMurray said it is a tactic they use across America to spread hate. “The anarchist who came prepared and armed they’re now going to another city to do the exact same thing. They know how not to get arrested. They have seen enough of these events to know when the police are about to move, they run in their cars and go. They leave the young people they stirred up to take the arrests.”
Police said they wanted to end the protest before night because they were afraid it would turn violent.