Hamilton County officials defend use of tear gas, say assaulting police does not honor George Floyd

Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Protesters run away from a cloud of tear gas fired by Hamilton County Sheriff's Office employees outside of the old Hamilton County Courthouse on Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Sunday was the second day of protests in Chattanooga over the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond and Mayor Jim Coppinger on Monday defended the sheriff's office use of tear gas on protesters the night before and condemned assaults on law enforcement.

Hundreds of people were tear-gassed by Hamilton County sheriff's deputies on Sunday night after a small number of participants at a peaceful protest against police brutality vandalized light fixtures at the courthouse on Georgia Ave., against the advice of organizers and peers.

After deputies tackled and apprehended those responsible for the damage and brandished non-lethal beanbag-firing weapons, fights between protesters and law enforcement broke out on the exterior stairs of the courthouse and tear gas was deployed into the crowd. Three people were arrested in that incident.

(READ MORE: National Guard, tear gas deployed as tensions rise on second day of George Floyd protests in Chattanooga)

Hammond said Monday that the tear gas was appropriately used.