Groups sue over police treatment at protests

Antonio Thomas and Malik Bridgewater

A photo provided by the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office shows Antonio Thomas, 17.

People pray during Prayer Vigil organized by Myron Smothers at Memorial Tower on the Louisiana State University campus in Baton Rouge, La., Monday, July 11, 2016.

Police in riot gear, wearing gas masks and carrying assault rifles, along with armored vehicles, were used to disperse a crowd Sunday participating in an unsanctioned protest in a Baton Rouge neighborhood where police diverted them as they marched toward Interstate 110. Sterling was shot and killed last…

In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, the ACLU of Louisiana and other groups, including Black Youth Project 100, accuse police of responding “to peaceful acts of protest with unlawful restrictions on constitutionally protected activity and disproportionate deployment of militarized equipment and excessive force”. Police are defending their actions after a fraught week of nationwide debate and sometimes violence following the police shooting deaths of two black men; a deadly sniper attack on officers in Dallas, Texas; and an alleged plot to harm Baton Rouge’s own officers. The killing was captured on cellphone video and circulated widely on the internet, sparking widespread demonstrations across the capital city. “Yet Alton Sterling is on the long list of Black people killed needlessly by our nation’s police, and protests in his honor have turned into circuses of violence where the First Amendment is tossed aside”.

Protesters flooded the streets of Baton Rouge after Alton Sterling’s death.

Attorneys allege the police actions during the protests, including the arrests and militarized response, was made to “intimidate protesters and deter the continued exercise of the First Amendment”. Authorities said they found out about the plot after they arrested three suspects in the burglary of eight guns from a pawn shop.

One of the detained suspects, law enforcement officials said, told investigators their goal was to use the stolen weapons against officers.

“We have been questioned repeatedly over the last several days about our show of force and why we have the tactics that we have”, Police Chief Carl Dabadie said.

The lawsuit describes the protests as peaceful and blames law enforcement for escalating the situation.

Those protests occurred during a week of demonstrations against police brutality that took place across the country. State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said he had personally seen protestors throwing concrete at law enforcement and officers had used “incredible restraint”, The Advocate reported.

Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, a BRPD spokesman, said the department does not comment on pending litigation.

Authorities have said that they have worked with demonstrators in many cases to allow them to protest peacefully, even blocking streets to traffic.

Police also arrested demonstrators who had been invited to gather on private property after ordering them to leave, the complaint stated.

Cameron said he and his father had a “best friend bond” and if he were alive today he would tell him “I love you so much”.

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