Police officer on Saturday used pepper spray to disperse the crowd to break up a march to a polling place in Graham, North Carolina.
Officers resorted to the action when the demonstration was deemed "unsafe and unlawful" due to unspecified "actions", according to a statement from the Graham Police Department, reports the CNN.
North Carolina Democratic congressional candidate Scott Huffman who attended the march, said protesters were only defending their First Amendment rights when the pepper spray was used by law enforcement in Graham, about 30 miles east of Greensboro.
"We were peacefully demonstrating, we were exercising our First Amendment rights with Black Lives Matter," Huffman said in a video he shared on Twitter.
The "I Am Change" march was branded as a "march to the polls" where participants were encouraged to march in honor of Black people whose deaths have fueled protests over racial injustice, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Trayvon Martin, among others, according to a flyer for the event.
Attorney Ben Crump, who represents the families of numerous victims of police brutality, was scheduled to speak at the event, the flyer shows, along with Brooke Williams, George Floyd's niece.
Video published by the Raleigh News & Observer appears to show demonstrators and law enforcement scuffling over sound equipment in front of the Graham courthouse. Alamance County Sheriff's deputies wearing gray uniforms soon deploy pepper spray, and at least one deputy is seen spraying a man in the face. Others spray toward demonstrators' feet.
At least eight people were arrested during the rally on various charges, including failure to disperse and one instance of assault on a law enforcement officer, Graham police said.
The Alamance County Sheriff's Office said it made arrests at the demonstration, citing "violations of the permit" the organizer, the Rev. Gregory Drumwright, a pastor and activist, obtained to hold the rally.
"Mr. Drumwright chose not to abide by the agreed upon rules," the sheriff's office said. "As a result, after violations of the permit, along with disorderly conduct by participants leading to arrests, the protest was deemed an unlawful assembly and participants were asked to leave."