Chief Mark McMurray stood in front of the Huntsville City Council for 3 hours Thursday thoroughly going through what happened both in the days before and during a June 3 protest that followed after a peaceful event hosted by the NAACP ended.
He said he wanted to give clarity to council members and the audience on why law enforcement officials used the methods they did.
“Every one of hundreds of cities around this country, we've looked at about every protest we could, there's a criminal element that comes in and gets infiltrated within," McMurray said.
Bystanders, protesters and criminals were the three types of people McMurray said were seen at protests, and were there on the night of June 3rd.
He said before the June 3rd protest, the department was monitoring social media posts to assess the threat so they could evaluate how the department should respond. He showed the council many tweets and posts he said the department found.
"... they're having a conversation about how to defeat police officers," he said.
McMurray said before the June 3rd protest, the department identified many cars with out of state license plates in downtown Huntsville. He says they also identified what he called 'Antifa Sympathizers,' people who agree with anti-police ideals and want to disturb peaceful protest. He said they identified many of these people in the crowd June 3rd.
"You can say chief you don't know what you're talking about, Antifa wasn't here, everything about Antifa was here on this event on the back side of the event, not on the front side on the back side," he said.
McMurray says police tried for more than an hour to disperse the crowd with verbal warnings and noises, but when the crowd didn't disperse he says that is when they used tear gas. He also showed videos of people making verbal threats to officers and throwing fireworks toward them.
"I had every authority and right to disperse that crowd because of the criminal intent that was showing up ready to fight police officers," he said.
Mayor Tommy Battle said he hopes the public comments last week, and the chief's explanation this week bring clarity to the situation and unify the community.
"Let me be completely clear, there are no winners, there have been no winners out of these two events. our law enforcement officers would rather of been anywhere, but they served an oath to serve and protect and they felt like they were serving and protecting," Battle said.
After the chiefs presentation,the council asked him some of their own questions as well as questions people in the community emailed them. During next Thursday's meeting, the council will vote on a resolution to have a citizens review board do it's own probe of what happened on the night of June 3rd.