Route 8 protest

Protesters shut down part of Route 8 in Bridgeport on Saturday, May 30, 2020.

State police said approximately 150 people took part in a protest on Route 8 that shut down the highway for several hours on Saturday.

Brian Foley, spokesman for the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said the demonstration on Route 8 was peaceful. Two demonstrators “agreed to be peacefully and respectfully charged,” said Foley.

The protest followed the death of George Floyd on Monday after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for for more than eight minutes while he was handcuffed, face down and saying he could not breathe.

Saturday marked the second day of protests in Connecticut, with more than 100 people gathered near the Town Hall in Stratford, hundreds in Middletown and thousands in Hartford.

More protests are planned Sunday in Norwalk, Stamford, New Haven and Waterbury.

Troopers said two Bridgeport women were arrested in the Route 8 protest. Alia Cotton, 22, and Tioni Michelle Martinez, 21, were arrested on charges of being a “negligent pedestrian,” interfering with and an officer and breach of peace. Both were released after posting a $1,000 bond.

According to the arrest report, at around 3:30 p.m.Troop G in Bridgeport responded to the area of northbound Route 8 near Exit 3. Troopers estimated there were approximately 150 plus protesters were on foot blocking the highway on both sides of the highway.

State police from Troop G in Bridgeport and Troop I in Bethany arrived at the scene “to maintain civil obedience and protect both the protesters and those impacted by the protest.”

Troopers said “the group of protesters remained non-confrontational with troopers; only carrying signs, videoing and posting social media postings, and yelling.”

Troopers were able to clear the highway of all traffic stuck on Route 8.

At approximately 6 p.m, “a large portion of the protesters dispersed leaving a small group of approximately 12 protesters sitting on the southbound travel lanes refusing to leave.”

At around 7 p.m., State Police Sgt. Alex Pearston gave the first dispersal order. About 15 minutes later, Pearston gave the second dispersal order.

“At this point two protesters remained and would not leave,” state police said. The two — Cotton and Martinez — were taken into custody and arrested at the Troop G barracks.

The Bridgeport protest began at McLevy Green and later then moved to police headquarters on Congress Street.

Scott Appleby, the city’s director of emergency communications and emergency management, said some protesters became “agitated and knocked down the barriers to the site and gained access by force to the exterior doors” of the police station.

He said the protesters were asked to go back outside, but refused the order.

“Protesters forcefully moved further into the facility when BPD deployed pepper spray to deter breach into headquarters,” Appleby said. “The use of this tactic was announced twice with the request for protesters to exit before being disseminated. There were no serious injuries caused by the spray and the individuals left the facility to return to the demonstration outside.”

The protest then moved onto the lanes of travel of Route 8 north and south in the area of Exit 2 and Exit 3.