The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday said it and four other groups are suing a Louisiana police department over alleged civil rights violations during protests of last week’s police shooting of a black man.
Joined by civil rights groups North Baton Rouge Matters, Black Youth Project 100, New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, Louisiana Chapter of National Lawyers Guild, the ACLU of Louisiana filed for an injunctive relief against the Baton Rouge Police Department to prevent further “unreasonable seizure,” according to the complaint.
Protesters angered by the July 5 death of Alton Sterling took to the streets of Baton Rouge on Sunday and were eventually met with police force, first being ordered to clear the street, then ordered off the sidewalks. When a private property owner offered the protesters refuge, officers declared the gathering unlawful.
“Where, exactly, do government officials expect their citizens to protest? It’s looking, unfortunately, like the answer is ‘nowhere,’ wrote Lee Rowland, senior staff attorney for the ACLU, in a blog post. “Law officers on the ground in Baton Rouge have done nothing to facilitate the constitutional rights to which they have each sworn an oath. Instead, they have met words with weapons, peace with violence. They have continually escalated a nonviolent protest into a full-scale conflict between the citizens and the police.”
Officers formed three lines around the protester and advanced, forcing them down side streets.
“We got cameras and signs, they got guns and tear gas,” said Altrell Gross, who recorded a 19-minute Facebook live stream video of the incident Sunday. “This is what they wanted, though. … All we wanted to do was walk. All we wanted to do was march, man.”
Since the shooting that has sparked protests nationwide, Baton Rouge police have arrested some 200 people who have marched, the Times-Picayune reported.
According to the complaint, protesters were met with “military-grade assault” on their “bodies and rights.”
Law enforcement officials disagreed about the protesters intentions.
“This group was certainly not about a peaceful protest,” said Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of the state police, after the Sunday night demonstration, which resulted in more than 100 arrests, the New Orleans-based newspaper reported.