The city of Baton Rouge, La., the Baton Rouge Police Department and other law-enforcement officials are facing a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and other civil rights groups, accusing authorities of violating protesters' rights to free speech and assembly during large protests over the past week, the Times-Picayune reports.
"This exercise of constitutional rights has been met with a military-grade assault on protesters' bodies and rights," the lawsuit, filed by the ACLU, claims.
The plaintiffs are asking for an immediate temporary restraining order against the state police, Baton Rouge law-enforcement agencies and the district attorney, with the intent of restricting how protesters can be apprehended during future rallies.
Plaintiffs include North Baton Rouge Matters, Black Youth Project 100, the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and the Louisiana chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. The defendants named in the lawsuit include the city of Baton Rouge, the Baton Rouge Police Department, Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr., the Louisiana Department of Public Safety, Louisiana State Police Col. Michael Edmonson, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Department, East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid J. Gautreaux III, Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden and District Attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish Hillar C. Moore III, the Times-Picayune notes.
Last weekend, approximately 200 people were arrested in Baton Rouge during protests surrounding the death of Alton Sterling, who was fatally shot by local police July 5.
Critics have slammed authorities for their use of full riot gear and apparent heavy-handedness in detainments of protesters. The plaintiffs say some protesters were verbally abused and physically hurt during the demonstrations.
Authorities said their response was due to the uncovering of an alleged plot to harm police that police say was revealed after four people broke into a pawn shop to steal guns for the alleged attack. Police also said that arrests were made after some protesters threw pieces of concrete at officers Sunday.
"This group was certainly not about a peaceful protest," State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said after a protest Sunday night that resulted in more than 100 arrests.
According to the Times-Picayne, the demands by the plaintiffs include insisting that officers have their name, law-enforcement agency and identifying number clearly displayed in order to be allowed to work protests. The use of "chemical agents" such as tear gas would also be prohibited unless there was a clear warning and authorization for use from the governor.
"Police have used force on protesters who were standing and chanting peacefully, including tackling, pushing, hitting, and dragging them. Protesters have been bloodied and injured by this force," the lawsuit claims.
Read more at the Times-Picayune.