Demonstrators chant outside Portsmouth city council

Posted at 8:33 PM, Jul 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-12 23:18:35-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Arm in arm, demonstrators sang and chanted outside of the city council meeting on Tuesday night.

An organizer for the group says they were there to make council listen to their voices, but that they could continue to do their jobs. "This was the perfect opportunity," said Rocky Hines, who says the group was unaffiliated with a larger movement. "I'm pretty sure we were heard."

Their presence led to a big police response, including an officer on the roof. Local NAACP President James Boyd challenged the city's police chief about the response after the meeting. "You saw the incident in Dallas. My duty is to protect you all and my officers," said Chief Tonya Chapman.

The meeting ended peacefully. During it, many wore shirts that said "thug." Councilman Bill Moody called protesters who blocked the Downtown Tunnel "thugs" on Sunday night. He later apologized for the tweet. He was not at Tuesday's meeting, saying he's on a pre-planned vacation.

His tweet drew several negative comments from his colleagues. "To use such a term as thug definitionally speaks to a violent criminal," said Councilman Mark Whitaker.  "There was nothing but peaceful protest that was going on."

Hines says the demonstration outside the meeting was not a response to the tweet, but rather a call to action for equality and accountability.

Moody said protesters were "nothing but Thugs" in a tweet.