SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Shreveport police spent most of the day Saturday at the Caddo Parish Courthouse trying to keep protesters and what began as a peaceful protest by four people morphed into a protest and counter-protest that by late afternoon swelled into hundreds of people.
The Lighthouse Ensemble, a performing arts group that focuses on social justice issues obtained permits to protest the Confederate Monument at the Caddo Courthouse every Saturday in the month of June, according to William James, a member of the group.
Each Saturday, James and a few others have shown up at the courthouse with lawn chairs and signs that asked that the monument be relocated. James said the chairs were brought to encourage dialogue with others who might happen by.
But Saturday, another group who oppose moving the monument showed up. The counter-protesters, many of whom were bikers, did not have a permit, were openly armed with handguns and rifles. They positioned themselves across the street from the Confederate Memorial protesters.
Several police units were dispatched to the scene, as more counter-protesters arrived and the crowd began to swell.
James explained that he believes the counter-protesters appearance was accidental. He said late on Friday, Caddo Parish granted a permit for future presentations from 7 p.m. to midnight on the grounds of the courthouse. He believes someone leaked that information to Rex Dukes of the Gulf Coast Patriot Militia, who misunderstood and thought the event was 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday, and called in his group to counter-protest.
Meanwhile, just across the river in Bossier City, a march protesting police brutality was getting underway. Sponsored by a group called We The People. Louisiana, the march began at Walbrook Park on Shed Road and progressed to Bossier City Hall at 620 Benton Road.
According to organizers, the march was organized because Bossier has “a long, painful history between black people and the police.” They said the march was conceived to give people “of all backgrounds the chance to vocalize and express the pain they have felt from the injustices of elected officials to begin the healing process with the citizens of Bossier City.”
When the Bossier marchers reached City Hall, they also were met by counter-protesters, but the Bossier marchers weren’t there for long. They received information about the Shreveport counter-protest and decided to go to Shreveport to support the Lighthouse Ensemble’s efforts.
As the afternoon wore on, people sympathetic to the group wishing to move the Confederate Memorial to another location, showed up to support the group. A contingent of Black bikers showed up, but James said their appearance also was accidental. He said they were out for a ride and were cruising down Texas Street, when counter-protesters began hurling insults at them.
He said they were unaware of what was going on, but returned the insults, James said. Although things periodically became contentious, Shreveport police were able to keep things in check and protect the group that obtained the permit.
By 3 p.m. Saturday, police estimated the crowd to be more than three hundred people, and though there were occasional flareups, police said, for the most part, the crowd was under control.
Only one arrest was made – 44-year-old Gregory Highsmith of Bossier City, was taken into police custody after he allegedly struck a man, causing a phone to fall out of his hand. Highsmith was booked into the Shreveport City Jail on a charge of simple battery.
However, the protesters’ permit was only until 5 p.m., and much of the crowd dissipated around that time, though a few people were still there at 7 p.m. when the second event was slated to begin.