Baton Rouge agrees to pay Black Lives Matter protesters $100,000

Four agencies, including local and state police, agreed to pay up to $25,000 apiece for a total of about $100,000 to settle a federal class action lawsuit filed by activists arrested while protesting the death of Alton Sterling.

Max Becherer/AP/File
Police arrest activist DeRay McKesson during a protest along Airline Highway in Baton Rouge, La., July 9, 2016. The Baton Rouge Metro Council on Tuesday approved a settlement paying activist Mckesson and other protesters arrested during summer demonstrations over the shooting death of Alton Sterling.

Ninety-two protestors who were arrested last summer while demonstrating after Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police in Baton Rouge, La., will receive financial compensation from local and state authorities, whom the activists accused of excessive force and violating their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly.

Rather than proceed to trial in a federal class action lawsuit filed by the arrested protestors, the Baton Rouge Metro Council approved a settlement Tuesday, agreeing to have four agencies pay prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson and fellow plaintiffs about $100,000 in total. State police, the sheriff's office, the district attorney, and the city will each pay no more than $25,000 under the terms of the agreement.

"To me, this encourages that type of behavior to happen in the future," said John Delgado, one of the two members on the 12-member council who voted against the settlement, as The Advocate reported. "I have no interest in paying $100,000 in taxpayer dollars to people who are coming into our city to protest."

Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson, however, said the settlement price is much smaller than what the city would be forced to pay if even a single one of the 92 plaintiffs were to prevail in court by proving that they had been wrongfully arrested. Ms. Batson noted, furthermore, that more than 90 percent of the protestors who sued were locals.

Although the local prosecutor had said his office would not try the protestors, the plaintiffs had still been required to post bail, pay administrative fees, and cover court costs in order to be released, according to their lawsuit. Mr. Mckesson, who is based in Baltimore, said in a tweet that the settlement will cover the plaintiffs' arrest-related expenses and automatically wipe the arrest from their record.

Protests erupted in Baton Rouge after officers shot and killed Mr. Sterling, a black man, while they had him pinned to the ground on July 5, fueling outrage over the relationship between city police and people of color, as the Christian Science Monitor's Aidan Quigley reported at the time

Massive protests – and extensive arrests – have become commonplace following high-profile police shootings of black men by police since protesters took to the streets of Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014. The demonstrations have in some cases tapped a raw anger among black communities.

The movement has coalesced around a fierce yet peaceful defiance, a strategy that echoes the tactics employed by civil rights leaders of decades past, who preached nonviolent resistance in the face of physical force and oppression.

While law enforcement's perspective continues to play a major role in the public's understanding of these sorts of confrontations, the presence of cellphone video in Sterling's case and others points to a trend that has shifted that dynamic, with ramifications both for the courtroom and public opinion.

When three Baton Rouge-area officers were fatally gunned down later in July, the second burst of violence highlighted a racial divide "as old as the city itself." The southern, mostly white portion of the city is informally segregated from the predominantly black neighborhoods to the north, as the Associated Press reported. 

Settling the protestors' lawsuit – which accused police of advancing on them in military gear and gas masks while brandishing assault weapons and driving armed vehicles, even pointing weapons directly at peaceful demonstrators – could be seen as a sign of progress toward addressing the concerns raised last summer and in similar instances since Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.

But the legal proceedings that have stemmed from Sterling's death and ensuing protests are far from over. The US Department of Justice is still investigating the police shooting, and an officer who says he was injured during one of the protests is suing Mckesson and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Material from The Associated Press and Reuters was included in this report.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Baton Rouge agrees to pay Black Lives Matter protesters $100,000
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2016/1123/Baton-Rouge-agrees-to-pay-Black-Lives-Matter-protesters-100-000
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe