On the same weekend that a national “Black Lives Matter” conference was being held in Cleveland, a transit police officer in the city turned a can of pepper spray on a mostly African American crowd that had gathered as authorities were placing an intoxicated teen into a patrol car, officials said.

The incident occurred Sunday just blocks from Cleveland State University’s conference center, where a “national convening” of the Movement for Black Lives was being held “to draw attention to police brutality and race relations,” the Northeast Ohio Media Group reported.

Regional Transit Authority spokesman Jerry Masek said the convention crowd happened to be in the same area where the juvenile was removed from a bus, which is how the police and activists converged.

Video of the encounter is below. [Warning: The video contains profanity.]

Sgt. Robert Schwab, who is white, used the pepper spray in effort to clear the area behind the cruiser, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority said in a statement.

“For the safety of the juvenile, Transit Police moved him from the open shelter area into a police cruiser. The crowd then surrounded the car, and attempted to remove the juvenile from the car,” the statement read. “By this time, several other law enforcement agencies had also responded.

“The crowd kept the police car from leaving the area. When it was obvious that the car could not move forward — 50-100 individuals were blocking the way and sitting in front of the car — police attempted to back up the car, where fewer persons had gathered.

“Police tried to moved back the person[sic] who were behind the vehicle, but they were not cooperating. Then, a Transit Police officer used a general burst of pepper spray in an attempt to clear the way.”

The statement said the pepper-spray burst “was ineffective, as additional persons filled in behind the car.”

In the statement, the juvenile as “intoxicated to the point where he was unable to care for himself.”

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“I was told the police are pepper spraying people down the street and I’m seeing people run for milk so they can be protected from pepper spray all because people are asking what happening to a young man,” Rhonda Y. Williams, a  history professor at Case Western Reserve, told NBC affiliate WKYC. “When we have an officer who comes out of nowhere and is pushing people and then takes out and just starts spraying with his pepper spray, that’s not deescalation.”

The incident is now under investigation. The 14-year-old was eventually released into the custody of his mother, according to the statement.

“They begin to form a barricade around the car urging the police to let the young man go but they wouldn’t and when they were linking arms and doing chants one of the police officers began pepper spraying the whole line,” conference attendee Destinee Henton told WKYC. “They were on the ground covering their faces. He was still spraying them toward the ground so that’s when more more people started coming out.”

It was in Cleveland that 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed in a police shooting in November. Six months later, a white Cleveland police officer, Michael Brelo, was acquitted for his role in the 2012 fatal shooting of two unarmed African Americans.

“Unfortunately, the wrongful arrests of Black people in street interactions is a day to day occurrence and happen in complete obscurity,” the Movement for Black Lives said in a statement Monday. The statement added: “In this case, police were met by participants of a conference designed to deal directly with issues of police misconduct and anti-Black violence. This is why we fight.”

[This post has been updated.]

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