Police in Newark made several arrests outside the MTV Video Music Awards on Monday after protesters gathered to bring attention to the lead contamination in the city’s water supply. Police said the arrests came after some protesters attempted to enter a secure area of the star-studded event.
Many residents in New Jersey’s largest city have been dealing with high levels of lead in their water supply for more than two years, which has led to people being asked to use bottle water as city officials and federal authorities search for a solution. The high lead levels are caused by the metal in the service plumbing lines wearing away.
Dozens of protesters made their way to the Prudential Center in downtown Newark on Monday, where celebrities including Taylor Swift, Cardi B, Lil Nas X and Megan Thee Stallion walked the red carpet.
Chants of “We don’t want no MTV, we want our water lead free” were heard during the gathering according to the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
“We had some good chants, a lot of good energy and raised a lot of good politics,” Al Moussab, the president of the Newark Education Workers Caucus, who attended the protest tells TIME.
Newark’s Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said in a statement that “out of towners” came to Newark to try to disrupt the event, which was being broadcast to the world.
“They were dealt with swiftly and without incident, thanks to the professionalism and preparedness of our officers,” he said.
Moussab estimates 125 people, including some from his Newark-based group, attended the protest.
Photos and videos of the protests were posted on social media that showed people walking with signs and chanting against the water crisis, as well as the officer who were present, calling them “racist police.”
On Monday, Newark announced that the city will borrow $120 million to speed up the amount of time it will take to replace the pipes that are causing the high lead levels, the Associated Press reported.
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