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Issue #1740      July 20, 2016

Baton Rouge police sued

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have sued the Baton Rouge police over their alleged mistreatment of demonstrators protesting at police brutality.

The lawsuit details a shocking litany of abuse of participants in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations against last week’s shooting of local black man and father Alton Sterling by two white police officers.

Authorities arrested about 200 protesters over a three-day period, with officers often taking to the streets in riot gear or riding in military-style vehicles.

More than 100 of those arrests were made at a demonstration that blocked an interstate highway, a new tactic that is spreading across the country.

“Plaintiffs have engaged in this peaceful speech, association and protest on the streets, sidewalks and medians of Baton Rouge,” the ACLU lawsuit reads.

“Unfortunately, this exercise of constitutional rights has been met with a military-grade assault on protesters’ bodies and rights.”

The lawsuit accuses the police and city authorities of various abuses.

DeRay Mckesson, who was among those arrested in Baton Rouge, attended a meeting between President Barack Obama, BLM leaders, police organisations, mayors and state governors.

Mr Obama said he would like to see such “respectful conversations” repeated across the country, but admitted: “We’re not even close to being there yet, where we want to be.”

Meanwhile, 41 more BLM demonstrators were arrested at a similar roadblock demonstration in Minneapolis, near where school canteen supervisor and Teamsters’ Union member Philando Castile was shot dead by police last week.

A candlelight vigil was held to mark the anniversary of the death of Sandra Bland, a black woman who apparently hanged herself in a Texas jail cell after being subjected to violence during her arrest.

Among the lawsuit’s allegations:

  • Police gave protesters contradictory and confusing orders and arrested them when they failed to comply.
  • Demonstrators were arrested for obstruction, for setting foot on any paved surface adjacent to the road, even if they did not obstruct anything.
  • Authorities used “unconstitutional levels of force, including physically tackling non-violent demonstrators and using Mace, Taser charges, and/or pepper spray on non-violent protesters.”
  • People in jail said they were Maced or pepper-sprayed for making comments or singing protest songs.

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