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North Baton Rouge Matters vs. City of Baton Rouge

North Baton Rouge Matters v. City of Baton Rouge, U.S. Dist. Ct., M. D. Louisiana
Case 3:16-cv-00463-JWD-RLB
Filed July 13, 2016

Local organizing groups, NOWCRJ, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana have filed a lawsuit against the Baton Rouge and Louisiana State Police Departments, East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney, and the City of Baton Rouge for violating the First Amendment rights of demonstrators who were protesting peacefully against the killing of Alton Sterling. The case is co-counseled by Candice Sirmon, ACLU Foundation of Louisiana; Ron Wilson, ACLU Foundation Cooperating Attorney; and Sima Atri, New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice.

Media reports

Case Documents

Complaint in North Baton Rouge Matters vs. City of Baton Rouge et al. 

Motion for Temporary Restraining Order

Affidavits filed with the lawsuit

Marjorie Esman (Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana): Members of her organization attended marches, vigils, and rallies to observe and protest throughout the Baton Rouge area.

Shaena Johnson (BYP 100): Attended multiple protests following the death of Alton Sterling, but at the July 10th protest and witnessed “extreme brutality from the police, including taking and macing protesters, physically striking and arresting protesters en masse”. She also witnessed the police disperse protesters from gathering in public spaces.

May Nguyen (Louisiana chapter of the National Lawyers Guild): “attempted to negotiate a peaceful resolution and compromise with law enforcement leaders” to no avail. Encountered disrespect from officers, excessive force, tackling protesters, and a woman’s hijab being ripped off.

Saket Soni (Executive Director of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice). Recounts that his staff encountered “indiscriminate arrests and aggressive police practices by a highly militarized police force in violation of their First Amendment rights”. Workers also viewed “people of color being targeted for arrests”

Crystal Williams (Founder of North Baton Rouge Matters): Witnessed police giving vague instruction to protesters then charging them and arresting them. She noted “it sounded like a war zone with the police sirens, and helicopters. Members of her organization felt terrorized because of the aggressive manner of the officers, including their possession of AK47s, assault rifles, and shot guns.

Hannah Adams (Legal Observer at the Sunday, July 10th protest): Witnessed violent encounters of officers with assault rifles in full riot gear against peaceful protesters.

Adina Marx Arpadi (Legal Observer at the Sunday, July 10th protest): Observed police charging at peaceful protesters.

Brachell Brown (community member at the Saturday, July 9th protest). Was tackled, choked, and arrested. Describes her brother being tased and arrested.

Christopher Brown (community member at the Saturday, July 9th protest): Was arrested. Describes conditions inside jail, including being pepper sprayed by a guard.

Julien Burns (New Orleans community member, at the Sunday, July 10th protest): Describes police violence toward protesters. Was arrested. Describes overcrowded conditions inside jail.

Randolph Carr (New Orleans, Member, BYP100 at the Sunday, July 10th protest). Describes police maneuvers and multiple violent arrests.

Sabrina Carter (community member at the Sunday, July 10th protest): Describes contrast between march and gathering afterward. Describes police blocking streets, giving confusing orders, and charging the crowd to make arrests.

Tammy Lynn Cheney (attended protest): Tammy, her 5-year-old son, and 17-year-old daughter parked nearby where protesters were gathered, awaiting the opening of the road. Tammy stepped away momentarily to take photographs, when police arrested her daughter and prevented Tammy from rejoining her son (who was waiting inside the air conditioned car). Police arrested Tammy, threatened to charge her with felony child abandonment, and purposefully separated Tammy and her minor daughter while in jail.

Caressa Chester (attended Sunday, July 10 protest). Observed the increasingly aggressive tactics used by police against peaceful protesters. Eventually felt she had to flee for her own safety, after watching dozens of protesters get randomly tackled and hurt by police. “Their aggression and the arbitrary way they were arresting people who were fenced in and had nowhere to go was what scared me.” “Running from the police felt worse than political inaction, so I eventually left.” “To be immediately in front of a police force that wields so much power and to know that they do not respect the law, makes it feel impossible to protest…[P]eople are scared to be seriously injured and arrested by a police force that has no regard for our legal, peaceful activity.”

Marquita D. Christy (NOWCRJ): Witnessed the police randomly tackle individuals in groups of 4 or 5 and cause panic among the crowd. She also describes that police instructions were incoherent, contradictory, and impossible to comply with.

Ricky Coston (Stand with Dignity, NOWCRJ): Describes the chaos and panic that ensued when police charged the peaceful protesters gathered on the private property of a local homeowner.

Jenna Finkle (community member attended protests): Tackled by police and arrested, without being told the charge or being read, while standing on private property with the homeowner’s permission. In jail she was subjected to a strip search, overcrowded conditions, and witnessed a holding cell full of men get maced. Her property was never returned even after being released.

Colleen Harrigan (community member attended the Sunday March): Observed arrests and police barricading protesters in. She was unable to move her car at the end, and a police officer told her to walk back to New Orleans.

Sandra Harris (Justice for Eric Harris, Eric Harris’s Mother): Attended the march and witnessed arrests. Fled the protest area when she became afraid for herself and her young grandchildren. “We didn’t come to get killed. We came to protest and to get justice for Eric. They treated us so badly.” (Police in New Orleans shot and killed Eric Harris).

Octavio Hingle Webster (attended July 10 protest): Arrested. Police pulled them to the ground and brought them to the station.

Max Geller (attended July 10 protest): Pinned to the ground by police and was hit in the head. He lost consciousness as a result of the hit to the head, and was brought to the hospital. “I was trying to tell the doctors what happened so that I could receive medical care, but the police kept interrupting me…I never even learned I was diagnosed with a concussion until I was released [from jail].”

Tabitha Hughes (community member): Tabitha attended the July 8 and July 9 protests. She witnessed multiple violent arrests. Her 16-year-old daughter, Yakeista Hughes, was arrested on July 9, and fearing for her other children, she left the protest early. “It looked like the police were trying to start everything; the protesters were the only ones working to stay peaceful.”

Yakeista Hughes (attended July 9 protest): Arrested by a police officer who indicated he was targeting her specifically. He threw her to the ground by her shirt, then dragged her across the grass by her hair. She was held with people that were denied medical assistance and observed that the air conditioning and lighting were set in a way to prevent people in jail from sleeping. “The fifteen to twenty police who were standing in the middle of Airline charged the protesters standing on the grass, grabbing anybody they could, dragging them onto the highway and arresting them.”

Charles Joyner (Stand with Dignity, NOWCRJ): Attended the peaceful demonstration, marred by an atmosphere of fear by the police. “We pay for their equipment, and they shouldn’t be able to use it on us like they did.”

Sophie Kosofsky (community member at July 10 march): Attended the march, witnessed confusing and contradictory orders from the police that resulted in a standoff ending violently.

Tarana Lawrence (NLG legal observer): Witnessed the police confine protesters to the corner of Government and East st. Police refused to allow them to disperse with threat of arrest if anyone stepped out on the street.

Alissa Luis (NLG legal observer): Witnessed protesters acting in a peaceful and non-violent manner. East Baton Rouge Sheriff officers marched towards protesters, followed them onto private property and arrested them.

Alison Renee Mccrary (President of the Louisiana chapter of NLG, Catholic nun-Sisters for Christian Community) As an experienced legal observation trainer and certified mediator, witnessed over 200 protesters arrested during peaceful non-violent demonstrations taking place over one weekend.

Andrew Mcdaniel (Southern Poverty Law Center): An attorney that attended as a legal observer was arrested for attempting to observe police interaction with community member.

Ejike Obineme (BYP100 member): Participated in the protests to stand in solidarity with Baton Rouge and engage with that community to build short and long term strategies to address issues affecting us all.

William Quigley (Professor at Loyola University): Attending as a legal observer, witnessed police drag protesters off of the sidewalk and across the street to be arrested. Even witnessed arresting another legal observer.

Nadia Salazar (Community organizer- VAYLA): Attended to show support for other people of color, officers snuck up behind her and her husband, tackled them to the ground and arrested them.

Karen Savage (reporter for Juvenile Justice Information Exchange): An experienced journalist, witnessed the particularly aggressive, assault style response to a peaceful protest.

Marina Sparagana (resident of Orleans Parish): Attended the protest to peacefully march against police brutality. Had a police officer dressed in full riot gear point an assault rifle at her.

Emily Faye Ratner (Legal Observer and Attorney): Observed the July 10 protests at East and Government and on Airline. Observed protesters who were permitted to enter a woman’s yard. She and another legal observer were shoved by police officers, and Emily observed multiple arrests that night. Based on her observations, police targeted black people disproportionately for arrest. “[N]o one could tell us how people could safely exit without risking arrest.”

Lily Ann Ritter (ACLU of LA): Saw legal observer arrested. Also observed police advance toward protesters in armored vehicle and marching in formation with full riot gear.

Colette Tippy (Stand with Dignity, NOWCRJ): Community organizer who attended with members. Observed the police with military equipment, like armored tanks, full riot gear, and gas masks. Saw the police march toward peaceful protesters in riot gear and people trying to run away to escape.

Crystal Williams (North Baton Rouge Matters): Organizer for North Baton Rouge Matters who attended the protest and saw and experienced the police aggression. “I feel like speech is my most powerful tool to ensure my community and my family are safe. But now I felt totally silenced, like even if I protest peacefully the police will try to silence me.”

Willa Conway (Legal Support Worker): Spoke to released arrested protesters and recounts terrible detention conditions. Detained protesters were denied food, held in overcrowded cells, denied medical attention, and threatened with rape and shooting.