Local groups and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] Wednesday against the Baton Rouge Police Department for violating the First Amendment rights of protestors who were peacefully protesting the police killing of Alton Sterling [press release]. The suit claims that the police used excessive force, physical and verbal abuse, and wrongful arrests to intimidate and scatter those who were gathered. The complaint alleges that those attending the protest felt compelled to leave to “avoid indiscriminate arrest and aggressive police practices by a highly militarized police force in violation of their First Amendment rights.”
The suit comes after the US Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana [official website] announced an investigation [JURIST report] into Sterling’s killing, which was recorded on video. The situation has occurred amid a national conversation about police use of force, particularly against black citizens, and subsequent retaliation. In a press conference held last week in Washington, DC, Attorney General Loretta Lynch gave her response to the shooting of police in Dallas during a peaceful protest. Lynch stated that the Department of Justice [JURIST report], including the FBI, ATF, and US Marshals Service and US Attorneys Office were conducting an investigation into the Dallas shooting. In May Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law an amended hate crimes bill [JURIST report], referred to as the “Blue Lives Matter” law, including police, EMS personnel and firefighters in the category of those protected. The bill has drawn the contempt of some civil rights groups, including the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Earlier this year the US Department of Justice (DOJ) launched an investigation [JURIST report] of the San Francisco Police Department following the shooting of an unarmed African American. In December an Ohio grand jury decided not to indict [JURIST report] two officers involved in a 2014 shooting resulting in the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Earlier that month the DOJ announced that it would be opening a full investigation [JURIST report] into the Chicago Police Department following the 2014 police shooting death of a black teenager.