Witnesses: police used tear gas on protesters during encounter on I-95

MIAMI (WSVN) - Dozens of Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets of downtown Miami this weekend, leading to a tense encounter with police on Interstate 95 where, witnesses said, officers deployed tear gas on the crowd.

7News cameras captured a heavy police presence along Biscayne Boulevard, near Bayside Marketplace, just after 10 p.m., Saturday.

About 40 minutes earlier, witnesses said, Miami Police officers used loudspeakers to inform pedestrians and bystanders that they needed to clear the area because the situation could become dangerous.

A special response unit in an armored truck was seen taking off from the area sometime later.

Officers wearing masks and shields, as well as about a dozen cruisers, were seen near the Torch of Friendship, which is where dozens of demonstrators gathered hours earlier to call for racial justice and to defund the police.

“I think that there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of how we can protect our communities,” said Olyvia, one of the protesters.

Demonstrators made their message mobile, marching through downtown Miami before making it onto I-95.

“This was done in the moment and as a way to express the outrage that we have with the systemic failure of accountability,” said protester Carlos Naranjo.

It was here where, witnesses said, police officers used tear gas.

“As the people are trying to leave — there’s little kids in there — and then all of a sudden there’s all this gas,” said Naranjo. “I got tear gas in my face. I had to get a little bit of water, and my eyes are still bloody, so it’s just one of those examples where you’re trying to express your right to assemble, you’re trying to protest, yeah, taking the streets, but something like this is completely unnecessary.”

A Miami Police spokesperson on Saturday said officers were “handling a civil disturbance involving a group of protesters in the downtown area” but did not specify whether or not they used tear gas.

On Sunday, police issued a statement saying the group of protesters started throwing rocks and bottles at officers who were on the highway.

The statement goes on to say that after the group ignored orders to leave, officers were forced to “deploy an irritant.”

As of Sunday night, it remains unclear whether any arrests were made.

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