Black Lives Matter leader DeRay Mckesson on protests and his arrest

By Summer Delaney

There were over 200 arrests made in Baton Rouge, La. and St. Paul, Minn. Saturday during demonstrations over recent fatal police shootings. One of those arrested was activist DeRay Mckesson, a prominent voice in the Black Lives Matter movement. Mckesson spoke with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric about the ongoing protests, the movement and his arrest.

“I’ve seen protesters engaged in peaceful civil disobedience, in peaceful protests; I’ve only seen violent police,” said Mckesson, who was protesting the death of Alton Sterling outside police headquarters in Baton Rouge. “We have to live in a world where the police don’t kill people, where the police don’t harm people.”

Baton Rouge authorities claim that Mckesson was blocking a major thoroughfare and ignoring officers’ order to stay out of the road. Mckesson told Couric that protesters were acting “calm and peaceful,” and that “police created the conflict that night.”

“[With my arrest], the police gave an order, I followed the order and I was arrested nonetheless,” said Mckesson. “I maintain that the arrest was unlawful.”

Mckesson gained national attention after he took to Twitter to speak out following the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., nearly two years ago. His profile was further elevated Saturday night when he live-streamed his arrest on Periscope.

“Protest is this idea of telling the truth in public, and I’ll never be afraid to tell the truth,” said Mckesson. “What I heard in the jail cell and the conversations we had is that the arrests will not stop people from telling the truth, and that people remain as committed to this work today as they were two days ago and as they were yesterday.”

Mckesson also discussed former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani’s comments over the weekend in which he called the Black Lives Matter movement “inherently racist.”

“His statements [Sunday] were both a disgrace and an embarrassment to an understanding of racial inequity and definitely racial justice,” said Mckesson. “What Giuliani wanted to do is distract people from the real issues of police accountability. He would prefer us to talk about those embarrassing comments and to talk about the fact that police culture has to change and you have to have a broader conception of safety.”

He also weighed in on 2016 presidential politics, saying if Donald Trump is elected president, Americans “have much to worry about.”

“Trump continues to demonstrate a deep misunderstanding or willful ignorance around race,” said Mckesson. “His candidacy both in a metaphorical sense and certainly in a visceral sense provide a cover for bigotry and racism that is intolerable, and has no place when we think about American politics.”