Lightner said that he had the southbound lanes of Old Troy Pike closed so that protesters could be on the street for a while, but around 7 p.m. when the police wanted to reopen the road for traffic, some protesters would not move onto the sidewalk.
Police on bicycles first began circulating on the street telling people to move back. Then a police tactical vehicle, called an MRAP or Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected, drove onto the street after some protesters began cursing at police as officers attempted to get the protesters onto the sidewalk.
Police ordered the crowed to disperse several times and the message broadcast from the PA system of the MRAP told protesters they could be exposed to chemical irritants if they stayed.
“We used the MRAP because it has the announcing system on it,” Lightner said. “You can see it and you can hear it. The protest had been peaceful all night and the last thing I wanted was for someone to get hit by a car. The main reason for using the MRAP was to get people onto the sidewalk.”
Tension dissipated almost immediately when the tactical vehicle left, along with police officers on bicycles and in cars. The MRAP vehicle was present for about 15 minutes of the protest, Lightner said.
Officers from multiple jurisdictions were on hand.
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“I know people don’t like military vehicles, but they get people’s attention,” Lightner said. “I understand that it can be seen as an aggressive move, but people are more likely to listen when the vehicle is out there.”
Lightner said that because protesters complied, they drove the MRAP vehicle away.
“It was a very peaceful crowd,” he said. “We just wanted to make sure we kept the protesters protected.”
About a third of the crowd left and those who remained moved to the sidewalk.
Nationwide protests have taken place after police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, faces second-degree murder and other charges, while the other three officers present face charges of aiding and abetting murder.