Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson filed a class action lawsuit on 4 August against Baton Rouge, Louisiana over arrests made during a 9 July protest. McKesson, along with protesters Kira Marrero and Gloria La Riva, claims the Baton Rouge police department were unnecessarily aggressive in arresting nearly 200 demonstrators.
The well-known activist's arrest on 9 July was live-streamed on Periscope as he was protesting the police shooting death of Alton Sterling, NBC News reported. He was released from the East baton Rouge Parish jail the following day. Charges for "simple obstruction of highway commerce" against McKesson and other protesters were later dropped.
The 23-page complaint seeks damages for civil rights violations for the "unlawful mass arrests" made by Baton Rouge Police without probable cause. The suit noted that some demonstrators were arrested while on sidewalks, lawns and local residents' homes. Arrests between 6 July and 11 July are covered in the lawsuit, Reuters reported.
"Defendants employed unconstitutional tactics to disturb, disrupt, infringe upon and criminalise plaintiffs and class members' constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly," the lawsuit stated. The city of Baton Rouge, the East Baton Rouge Parish, the superintendent of the Louisiana State Police and the Baton Rouge chief of police and sheriff are listed as defendants.
Law enforcement officials were accused in the suit of reacting in a "militarised and aggressive manner" towards protesters. The lawsuit claims there were 16 violations of law by Baton Rouge police, including excessive use of force, conspiracy to deprive protesters of their civil rights, negligence and arrests without probable cause, according to Reuters.
Plaintiffs are claiming they are entitled to compensation for lost pay, bond expenses, administrative fees paid to the city and jail, court costs, as well as past and future attorney fees to clear their records of the arrests.
NBC News reported that the ACLU and local activists groups also filed a suit against the Baton Rouge Police Department following the Alton Sterling protest arrests on 13 July. The case was postponed at the request of both parties following the deadly attack on Baton Rouge police officers on 17 July.
State Police Colonel Mike Edmonson defended his department in a statement to the Associated Press. Edmonson, who said he believes police "exercised great restraint," said: "I didn't witness any aggressive form of behaviour by any police officer." The police colonel has not seen the lawsuit. The East Baton Rouge Parish Attorney's Office had no immediate comment.