BATON ROUGE, La. — Law enforcement agreed to settle a civil rights lawsuit brought in response of violence and aggressive policing of protests following Alton Sterling’s murder in Baton Rouge this summer. On November 29, 2016, five Louisiana non-profit and legal organizations signed and jointly filed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Baton Rouge Police Department, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Louisiana State Police, and the City of Baton Rouge.
The organizations filed a lawsuit on July 13, 2016 in response to local law enforcement agencies’ civil and constitutional rights violations against demonstrators who were protesting peacefully after the killing of Alton Sterling. “The lawsuit alleges and details how police used excessive force, physical abuse, verbal abuse, and wrongful arrests to disperse protestors who were gathered peacefully to speak out against the police killing of Alton Sterling,” stated co-counsel and New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice staff attorney Sima Atri. “A settlement indicates law enforcement’s recognition of improper policing in response to racial justice protests and we hope that this binding agreement will hold law enforcement to a higher standard that respects communities’ lawful right to protest.”
“We protest because the citizens of Baton Rouge demand to be accounted for. It is a big recognition that a government law enforcement agency agreed to a memorandum of understanding with community organizations and we will hold them accountable to it,” stated North Baton Rouge Matters Founder Crystal Williams. “This is a step in the right direction in demanding accountability from law enforcement by the community it is intended to protect and serve,” said Ada Goodly, a board member of the National Lawyers Guild and Baton Rouge resident.
Eyewitness accounts by plaintiffs in the suit document police in full riot gear with assault rifles lunging at and grabbing peacefully assembled people and tackling them to the ground with excessive force.
“This agreement should ensure that the violations which occurred in the aftermath of Alton Sterling’s murder will not happen again in the future,” said Marjorie Esman of the ACLU of Louisiana.
While the MOU is positive progress for the Baton Rouge Police Department and the City of Baton Rouge, it is only the first step towards true community-centered policing. The five plaintiff organizations will continue to advocate, organize, and monitor to ensure that its members and the public’s rights are respected and protected, and that public safety is created for all.
The five plaintiff organizations are as follows: North Baton Rouge Matters (NBRM) is a black-led Baton Rouge grassroots organization founded in the aftermath of the Alton Sterling shooting to uplift the voices of the city’s most marginalized; The Black Youth Project-New Orleans Chapter (BYP) is an activist member-based organization of Black 18-35 year olds, dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people by working through a Black queer feminist lens; New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ) is dedicated to organizing workers across race and industry to build the power and participation of workers and communities in the post-Katrina landscape; The Louisiana Chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild (LA-NLG) seeks to unite lawyers, law students, legal workers, and jailhouse lawyers to function as an effective force in the service of the people, to the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests; and The ACLU of Louisiana is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that fights to protect individual rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. and Louisiana Constitutions.