A PROTESTER who faced off police armed with rubber bullet guns as his two-year-old son sat on his shoulders claims an officer threatened to spray tear gas at the little boy, The Sun can reveal.
Dontae Parks, 29, attended a peaceful protest against the death of George Floyd in Long Beach, California, with his toddler son, dressed in a Batman costume and holding a “Black Lives Matter” sign on Sunday.
They were pictured in a dramatic image, which has since been shared around the world, in which they can be seen looking directly at officers as one masked cop brandishes a rubber bullet gun seemingly inches from their faces.
Now in an exclusive interview, Dontae told how one officer threatened to spray tear gas while others fired bullets right in front of them. The Sun has not yet been able to identify the officer who made the alleged threat but it was not the one pictured.
And in dramatic video footage shared with The Sun cops can be seen loading weapons and firing bullets all around them – while in another, fellow protesters can be heard begging cops not to gas the child.
One protestor can be heard on the footage saying: “What’s the matter with you? You are a monster! You are really going to gas this child? What about your child?”
Another can be heard saying: “There’s no need for that sir.”
Dontae said while his son remained fearless throughout the protest – he found the police’s behavior “uncalled for”.
“It did very much upset me,” he said.
“It was a peaceful protest and, yes, there were looters down the street that were doing God who knows what.
“But at the same time, I feel it’s uncalled for – I don’t think they should be firing any type of weapons especially in a crowd where there is a peaceful protest and there’s a child near by.
“The officer in the photo – he should not be a cop at all.
“I feel they let anybody be a cop these days… I could tell just by looking at him he’s ready to shoot at any time.
“I was speaking to the cops. There were a couple of them who told me they thought I should go home or ‘Get out of here’ but I said there’s no need for me to go home, I’m here for the protest.
“One cop threatened to spray my son with tear gas.
“I said ‘Okay, I would like to see you do that’. I was shocked.”
Dontae, who works as a welder, says he stands by his decision to take the youngster to the protest – despite being criticized by some.
“I saw a post about a peaceful protest so I decided to go over and I wanted my son to be there with me so he can see what’s really going on and appeal for justice for our people and all races,” he said.
“There was a lot of looting going on but not everyone was there to cause a ruckus, you have stupid people doing that but we were there to stand up for the people.
“I’m a great father and I take care of my son and I’m raising him to be great.
“A lot of people might think I put my son in danger by being there, but I know I wouldn’t let anything happen to him, and when it started to get really dangerous, we went home.”
Dontae also believes that he wouldn’t have had the same reactions from cops if he was white, saying: “Definitely…if me and my son were white I don’t think that cop would have threatened to spray the gas.
“It would have been a whole different scenario and that’s another reason I was there.
“I’m tired of the injustice that goes on in the world today with color.
“I’m not one to say ‘It’s because I’m black these things happen’ but it happens repeatedly. It’s all over social media people of color dying, it’s become normal, it’s like ‘Oh another day, another black person got killed, carry on’.”
Dontae said he wanted to make it clear that he didn’t want the picture or his experiences to spark any more violence – and there are other peaceful ways to bring about change.
“I’m a peaceful guy and I avoid confrontation,” he said.
“But we need change – I feel like they can’t just let anyone be a cop, I feel like a lawyer has to go to school and do a lot of years of education, I feel like it should be the same with cops.
“You can’t just give someone a gun and expect them to save the world, that’s not how it goes.
“You know some of these people sign up for this job and they are scared for their lives and that’s when bad things happen.
“If someone is in a position of power like that, they need to earn that. It shouldn’t be so easy to become a cop.”
Photographer Richard Grant earlier described the image as “the most impactful picture I have ever taken”.
He told The Sun: “I had no idea it would have this kind of impact.
“Lots of people are saying the gun isn’t pointed directly at the man and his son and I’m not sure it was either …. but at some point there were guns pointed at him as the police were aiming at people behind him or around him – at the people throwing rocks and bottles and everything else.”
Crowds of protesters standing against the killing of George Floyd have gathered in cities across the US over recent days.
George Floyd died on May 25 after getting arrested for apparently trying to use a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes.
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California has seen some of the largest protests with many cities being places under strict curfews – some as early as 1pm.