Three new lawsuits have been filed on behalf of more than a dozen demonstrators who took part in protests after last year's officer-involved shooting that left Alton Sterling dead. Two journalists who were arrested during the demonstrations are also listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuits.
All three suits were filed late Sunday night at federal court in Baton Rouge. They name local leaders and individual law enforcement officers directly, claiming they conspired together to violate the rights of demonstrators by controlling where and how they could voice their anger in the aftermath of the Sterling shooting.
Referring to police, one of the lawsuits claims that "their strategy was to silence this peaceful and lawful exercise of first amendment rights through intimidation, excessive force, and illegal arrests."
That suit in particular references the protest that took place on July 10, 2016 on Government St. on the border of Beauregard Town. That afternoon, police in riot gear clashed with demonstrators, arresting several of them.
"This wasn't about clearing the streets, this was about retaliating against them for what they were saying about police. And in America, that is not constitutional," said William Most, a New Orleans based lawyer representing a handful of the protesters from the Government St. demonstration, as well as two journalists who were also arrested.
"My clients complied with every police order that they were given that they could comply with. When they were told to get out of the streets, they got out of the streets. When they were told to get off of the sidewalks, they retreated into the yard of a woman who let them be there," said Most.
The suits name current Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie, former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, and former East Baton Rouge Mayor-president Mayor Kip Holden as defendants, along with several other local officials. Dozens of BRPD officers, EBRSO deputies, and state troopers are also listed in the lawsuits. Each is identified by name.
"This was not a spontaneous decision by dozens and dozens of officers at the same time," Most said during a Skype interview. "They came there with a plan, which was they were going to arrest these peaceful protesters."
During the protest a year ago, law enforcement officials, including Edmonson, defended the police response. Edmonson told reporters that some of the protesters threw cement at officers. Another appeared to fling a trashcan in the direction of police.
"We had a lot of phone calls from people in the area saying, 'Why you letting them in people's yards? Why you letting them block roads?' and stuff like that. Plenty of time and then we needed to clear the area," said Edmonson.
9News reached out to law enforcement to get their reaction to the lawsuits. Spokesmen for LSP and BRPD responded, saying they would not comment on pending lawsuits.
A WAFB news employee arrested during the same time frame is not part of the lawsuit.
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