NFAC protest in Lafayette over the police shooting of Trayford Pellerin ends peacefully

Members of the NFAC paramilitary group hold a demonstration in Parc San Souci in downtown Lafayette, Louisiana, on Saturday.

(CNN)A protest organized by a Black paramilitary group and attended by several community groups ended peacefully Saturday in Lafayette, Louisiana, despite the arrest of one person who police say accidentally fired a weapon at the event.

A leader of the NFAC -- the Not F---ing Around Coalition -- said the person who accidentally discharged the firearm was not part of their group.
More than 400 armed demonstrators with the NFAC came to the city to protest the death of Trayford Pellerin, a 31-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by police in August.
Leaders of the group said they also decided to go to the southern Louisiana city after seeing a Facebook post allegedly from US Rep. Clay Higgins, who represents the 3rd District. According to CNN affiliate KATC, the September 1 post -- which has since been deleted -- included photos of Black armed demonstrators and warned that if such protesters came to Lafayette he would "drop 10 of you where you stand."
    "If you show yourselves aggressively natured and armed in my presence. In my neighborhood. Where I work. Anywhere close enough to put my family or my fellow citizens in danger. That's where your journey will end," the post reportedly said.
    CNN's attempts to contact Higgins or his office staff have not been successful.
    Ahead of NFAC's arrival in Lafayette, leader John Jay Fitzgerald Johnson, who goes by the name Grandmaster Jay, posted a video on YouTube September 29 of him speaking on the phone with Higgins, who suggested that the two men meet.
    At the end of the video, after he had finished with the call, Johnson said what viewers were witnessing was important.
    "A sitting congressman has had to apologize to Black power," Johnson said.
    On his verified Facebook page, Higgins posted a KATC article quoting a statement from him in which he said he did not apologize.
    He also called off the meeting with Johnson after the NFAC leader posted the video of their conversation online, saying Johnson "burned the olive branch," according to KATC.

    A peaceful demonstration

    Saturday's march took place peacefully. No one was injured when someone near the protest accidentally discharged a firearm, and the person was taken into custody, the Lafayette Consolidated Government told CNN.
    The group of more than 400 armed demonstrators was about to begin marching when CNN crews heard two to three bangs.
    Concerns were raised ahead of the weekend that White armed protesters might also attend the demonstration and tensions could boil over. A CNN crew did see some White demonstrators but there was no violence.

    Why they march

    Pellerin's death, along with the police killings of other Black people, including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, has sparked protests and outrage over racial injustice and police brutality.
    "We are US citizens exercising our constitutional rights and the color of our skin shouldn't make any difference," Johnson told CNN in an interview Saturday.
    "We are the response. We are not the incident," he said. "We are the response to repeated incidents or the response to repeated injustices."
    Members of the NFAC stand in ranks on Sepember 5, 2020.
    He said the day was about "empowerment, unity" and "dedication to each other," and that he wanted people to understand that they have "constitutional rights that you can exercise without just meaningless violence."
    The city told CNN earlier that it supports NFAC's right to bear arms.
    "They're our visitors. They're our guests and yet we've rolled out the red carpet for them," said Carlos Harvin, chief of Minority Affairs for Lafayette Consolidated Government.

    Police responded to a call about a man with a knife

    Pellerin was shot by officers responding to a "disturbance involving a person armed with a knife" at a convenience store parking lot on August 21, according to a statement from the Louisiana State Police.
    The statement says Pellerin had a knife and left when officers tried to apprehend him. The police followed him on foot and used Tasers as they pursued him, the statement says, "but they were ineffective."
    The officers shot Pellerin as he tried to enter a convenience store, according to Louisiana State Police. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
      "We believe that Mr. Pellerin was suffering from a mental health episode," Ronald Haley, an attorney for Pellerin's family, told CNN Saturday. Haley said police did not use proper de-escalation tactics, and as a result, Pellerin was killed.
      "He wasn't a threat to anyone," Haley said. "The only person he could have been a threat to was himself, and yet they did not take the time, the courtesy, the care for his life. And that's why people are out here."