Baton Rouge Protester On Arrest: 'I Didn't Know If I Was Going To Survive' Akeem Muhammad was one of 120 people arrested in Baton Rouge, La., in largely peaceful protests over the weekend. The 24-year-old student talks about his arrest and reflects on the protests.
NPR logo

Baton Rouge Protester On Arrest: 'I Didn't Know If I Was Going To Survive'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/485895800/485895801" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Baton Rouge Protester On Arrest: 'I Didn't Know If I Was Going To Survive'

Baton Rouge Protester On Arrest: 'I Didn't Know If I Was Going To Survive'

Baton Rouge Protester On Arrest: 'I Didn't Know If I Was Going To Survive'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/485895800/485895801" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Akeem Muhammad stands with a group of protesters in Baton Rouge, La., on Sunday. The 24-year-old student was one of more than 120 people who were arrested during the protest. Nicholas Martino/ Courtesy of Akeem Muhammad hide caption

toggle caption
Nicholas Martino/ Courtesy of Akeem Muhammad

Akeem Muhammad stands with a group of protesters in Baton Rouge, La., on Sunday. The 24-year-old student was one of more than 120 people who were arrested during the protest.

Nicholas Martino/ Courtesy of Akeem Muhammad

In Baton Rouge, La., the death of Alton Sterling sparked large protests over the weekend, drawing hundreds of people from Louisiana and around the country.

The protests were largely peaceful until tensions erupted on Sunday, and police arrested more than 120 people. One of those people was 24-year-old Akeem Muhammad.

"They were pointing those weapons in people's faces and slamming them to the ground, and it was one of the most scary moments of my life," Muhammad says. "At that moment, I didn't know if I was going to survive."

Use the audio link above to hear the full story.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In Baton Rouge, the death of Alton Sterling sparked large protests over the weekend, drawing hundreds of people from Louisiana and around the country. One of them was 24-year-old Akeem Muhammad.

AKEEM MUHAMMAD: Yeah, so my voice is hoarse because we were screaming no justice, no peace, no racist police.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Muhammad had never been to a protest before, but Baton Rouge had been a second home for him while he was a student at Louisiana State. So when his partner called to say, I'm going to the protests, Akeem Muhammad went with her.

SHAPIRO: On Sunday, they marched with hundreds of others to the State Capitol building in downtown Baton Rouge. There were no problems, until the march ended, and protesters were standing around trying to decide what to do next. Muhammad says that's when the Baton Rouge police showed up. He recorded some of what followed on his phone. You'll hear that sound.

MUHAMMAD: There were two dozen police officers dressed in riot gear with face guards and gas masks and weapons, not handguns. I don't know much about guns, but they definitely were not pistols. We were chanting Black Lives Matter. We were chanting no justice, no peace.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No justice.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No justice.

MUHAMMAD: We were chanting to the officers put your guns down.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Put your guns down. Put the gun down.

MUHAMMAD: It was clearly nonviolent. About two more squadrons arrived. Some lined up with shields and more riot gear and the other ones - they lined up on the opposite end, so that they could flank us. And they started to move in as the officers with the weaponized sound, you know - you can hear is really deafening.

(SOUNDBITE OF WEAPONIZED SOUND)

MUHAMMAD: The people were running in fear away from these officers. And there was really nowhere for them to actually go. They were pointing those weapons in people's faces and slamming people to the ground, and it was one of the most scary moments of my life.

At that moment, I didn't know if I was going to survive. I didn't know what to expect, and they grabbed me. And they slammed me on to the ground. They jammed their knee into the back of my neck and to my back, and they put the zip ties on as tight as they possibly could. And then they - as we were walking down the street, I guess, I was walking too fast for one of the officers. And they said slow down. This is our show now.

SIEGEL: It was the first time Akeem Muhammad had ever been arrested. He says it wasn't until after he and his partner Blair Imani (ph) were released on Monday that the emotions really hit him.

MUHAMMAD: It was a very fearful moment. I said it before, but I didn't know if I was going to see Blair again. I didn't know if I was ever going to be able to speak to my parents again. It was unbelievable. It was so surreal. It was like I was living through those videos in the '60s in black and white of individuals being hosed down and attacked with dogs. It was like I was there, and it really - there was really a mix of strong emotions that just overwhelmed me in that moment. And I couldn't handle it. I buckled.

SIEGEL: That was Akeem Muhammad. He was arrested on Sunday in Baton Rouge. He's been charged with obstruction of a public passage. The Baton Rouge Police Department did not respond to our request for comment.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.