Baton Rouge Police Sued by ACLU over "First Amendment Violations" During Alton Sterling Protests

Lawsuit alleges "excessive force, physical and verbal abuse, and wrongful arrests."


The Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in conjunction with a number of local organizations, have filed suit against the Baton Rouge (La.) Police Department over its response to protests against the police killing of Alton Sterling last week. 

Alleging "excessive force, physical and verbal abuse, and wrongful arrests to disperse protesters who were gathered peacefully," the ACLU released a statement alleging numerous violations of demonstrators' First Amendment rights. 

Over 200 people were arrested during various protests in Baton Rouge last weekend, including one protest where riot gear-clad officers advanced in formation on protesters who (with the permission of the homeowner) had congregated on the front lawn of a private residence. 

According to NOLA.com, "protesters expressed disbelief that police would break up what had largely been a peaceful protest leading up to the arrests. Most of the protesters tried to obey police orders to stay out of the roadway, even backing off a grassy strip next to the road when police told them to move onto the sidewalk."

Watch a brief clip of that incident via NOLA.com below:

Baton Rouge PD Lt. Jonny Dunham later told CBS News that the protesters had already broken the law by attempting to march along the on-ramp to the Interstate. Dunham added, "They felt like they could jump in her yard and be safe, but once you've broken the law, there's no safe space." Police also claimed that large chunks of concrete had been hurled at them at a protest earlier in the day, but that no officers were injured. 

The ACLU's press release includes testimonials from witnesses:

"[The police response] made me afraid to protest. Seeing the way the police were manhandling folks caused me to hide, scream out of fear, and finally flee for my safety. I had to run. A peaceful demonstration should never be like that," expressed Crystal Williams, local resident and organizer with North Baton Rouge Matters, "I feel like speech is my most powerful tool to ensure my community and my family are safe. But now I feel totally silenced."

Louisiana Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild President and Catholic nun Alison Renee McCrary: "I witnessed firsthand as peaceful protestors [sic] were violently attacked and arrested, assault weapons pointed at them with fingers on the triggers, some dragged across the cement, their clothes ripped off of them. What I saw happening was an immediate threat to life. My and other demonstrators' speech was chilled because of this event."

Baton Rouge PD spokesman Maj. Doug Cain was quoted by NOLA.com as saying protesters "voicing their First Amendment rights is protected by us" and that short of direct calls for violence, "they are free to express whatever feelings they convey."

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  1. But now I feel totally silenced.”

    You don’t say.

  2. Listen, it’s quite simple. Don’t want to be treated like a thug? Then don’t exercise your rights like a thug.

    1. They were asking for it, with their short dresses, speech and assembly rights.

    2. If those stupid protesters had stayed home, like they should have, there wouldn’t have been a problem. If you’ve got no destructive intentions, you should keep to yourself, and remain silent as to your opinion.

      The government builds roads and public places, and it has every right to forcibly empty an area of people. Only hatemongers and the John Birch Society believe otherwise.


        1. You read my mind. As I was finishing that first sentence above, I thought, “Whoa, there are shitheads who sincerely believe this bullshit. Parody? What parody?”

          1. I actually thought you had just copied the comment from Breitbart.

      2. Been to Breitbart.com lately apparently…

      3. Seriously, congrats on nailing this. You did it without sarcasm or cynicism, which I would have been completely unable to do.

  3. The ACLU is very selective in what clauses of the First Amendment they defend. But, they’re right on this one.

    1. Gun Owners of America: “Say, what about the Second Amendment? Forgot that one? You know, the one that comes right after the First Amendment?”


      1. Well, obviously the ACLU doesn’t support the Second Amendment. Despite their name, they have very little to do with actually defending civil liberties. They are just a front group for the Left and whatever is ‘cool’ by Leftist standards at the time, they’ll defend. A recent example is their reversal on religious liberty. They don’t support it anymore, because the Left doesn’t think it’s ‘cool’ anymore.

  4. It’s peculiar that the police behave well when the demonstrators are armed, isn’t it? Why, it’s almost as if the cops were pants-shitting, contemptible bullies who enjoy exhibiting their illegitimate authority when their victims are easy prey.

    Free men are armed. Slaves are not. Choose a weapon, study it, train with it, and carry it loaded. Nobody’s going to protect you from the cops.

    1. You’d be surprised at how many people stare at me, mouths agape, when I insist that I’m my own first line of defense. It’s like the concept never even occurred to them.

      1. Our forfeiture as Americans of that essential independence is genuinely tragic.

        1. Agreed.

          Even my own father have a heavy mental dependence on the police. “I’m glad that there are people looking out for the safety of my family.” … Shouldn’t that be you, dad?

  5. “You see this Star of David on my tit that says ‘Sharif?’ Well that means you do what I say or else.”
    “But Ossifier, this here is private property! They said we could!”
    “No buts. Stop resisting.”

    1. They’re just making it easier for the police to meet their monthly beatings quota by gathering all in once place.

  6. “They felt like they could jump in her yard and be safe, but once you’re ve broken the law, there’s no safe space.”

    1. The ideal ending to the entire encounter would have been for armed militia to appear in massive numbers, forcibly disarm the police, and demand the declaration of a state of emergency from the Governor of Louisiana.

  7. “Voicing their first amendment rights is protected by us,” Cain said.

    Sure, you can voice that you possess 1st Amendment rights, but the exercise of them is not protected.

    1. Protest leader: “We have rights! We have the right to free speech! You can’t stop us.”

      Cop: “You’re absolutely right, sir. Our First Amendment rights are sacred, and we, as true patriots and servants of the public, respect that.”


      Cop: *Draws handgun, opens fire wildly.* “FURTIVE GESTURES! THREATS!”

  8. North Baton Rouge Matters



    1. I fucking hate hashtags on social media. The day I abandoned my Facebook account was a good day, truly.

      1. Every day I don’t have a social media account is better because of it.

  9. Those officers and their supervisors are no doubt wringing their hands at the slim possibility that taxpayers might be handing out some dough.

  10. Aside from the head-scarfed screamer in the beginning of the vid, and the neon-yellow-haired ground-humper at the bottom, its hard to see anything there but a scrum of helmeted cops.

    Seriously though, police love their fucking tactical gear, but there’s absolutely nothing tactical about 100 cops for 20 protestors, and everyone so crunched up together that you’re going to guarantee people ‘resist’ because they’re being mobbed.

    1. It’s about playing solider. Not being one.

    2. “Lets see….Gang-up bonus…+1 to each baton strike , starting with the third guy into melee on the same protester!”


    3. Force one of these faux-warrior assholes onto an actual battlefield, and he’ll shit his pants and die of a panic-induced heart attack before the first bullet from an enemy’s weapon even reaches him.

      1. “We are the unwanted, doing the unthinkable, for the ungrateful. Doing so much for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.”

      2. I’ve read somewhere that the Army’s guidelines for engaging an actual enemy with guns and shit on a battleground are more strict that domestic police guidelines for engaging unarmed protestors…

        1. That’s true. The United States military enforces stringent and specific rules of engagement — and, at least before the malignancy of ever-lower standards and political correctness in our armed services, the penalties for violating those rules of engagement were severe.

  11. Can we get a time place manner ruling on assembling on a public highway onramp? I’m too lazy to research it myself.

  12. Baton Rouge PD spokesman Maj. Doug Cain was quoted by NOLA.com as saying protesters “voicing their First Amendment rights is protected by us” and that short of direct calls for violence, “they are free to express whatever feelings they convey.”

    Who do those punks think they are? Cops?

  13. Jackboots gotta jackboot.

  14. “They felt like they could jump in her yard and be safe, but once you’ve broken the law, there’s no safe space.”

    Um, I’m pretty sure the law says police can’t just barge into private property to arrest people for traffic misdemeanors.

    1. And the law totally stopped them from doing it

      1. Well, the law will hopefully make them — er, the taxpayers of Baton Rouge — pay for their lawbreaking, hopefully…

  15. Police also claimed that large chunks of concrete had been hurled at them at a protest earlier in the day

    Any video of that, or are we supposed to take their word for it?

    1. Cops lie.

  16. “But now I feel totally silenced.”

    Other than the national news coverage, that is.

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