Ninety-two protesters arrested during demonstrations sparked by the police shooting death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, earlier this year are set to get a hefty payout from state and local authorities, who they accused of using excessive force and violating their civil rights, the Christian Science Monitor has reported.
The Baton Rouge Metro Council moved on Nov. 23 to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by arrested protesters and agreed to have four agencies compensate prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson and the other plaintiffs to the tune of roughly $100,000.
The city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana State Police, the District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office will each be required to pay no more than $25,000 to the demonstrators, per the terms of the agreement. Officials said the settlement price is significantly lower than what the city would have to pay if just one of the 92 plaintiffs took them to court and won.
Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson told The Advocate each protester will be paid about $230. The rest of the $25,000 to be paid by the city-parish will cover the activists’ bonding fees, legal fees and the cost to eliminate the arrests from their permanent records.
Plaintiffs in the class-action suit asserted that police converged on them in all-out military gear, wielded assault-style weapons and sometimes even pointed those weapons directly at peaceful protesters.
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said he would refrain from prosecuting McKesson and others who were detained on misdemeanor counts of blocking a highway. However, protesters said they were forced to pay substantial arrest fees in order to be released.
A 12-member panel approved Tuesday’s settlement, but Metro Councilman John Delgado was one of two people who vehemently opposed it.
“To me, this encourages that type of behavior to happen in the future,” Delgado told The Advocate. “I have no interest in paying $100,000 in taxpayer dollars to people who are coming into our city to protest.”
Parish attorney Batson countered, however, saying no more than 10 percent of the Baton Rouge protesters were from out of town. An overwhelming majority were locals seeking justice and police accountability in the July 5 shooting that left Sterling dead, she said.
The shooting was one of many in a string of fatal encounters between unarmed Black Americans and police this year, shedding light on the growing tensions between law enforcement officers and communities of color. It’s hoped by many that the settlement of the protesters’ suit is a sign of progress in addressing concerns voiced by Black activists since the August 2014 shooting of Mike Brown by a white cop.
Despite the settlement, Baton Rouge activists are still demanding justice for Sterling, whose death at the hands of two local cops is still being investigated by the Department of Justice. Meanwhile, The Advocate reported that a Baton Rouge officer has filed a lawsuit against McKesson and Black Lives Matter, claiming he sustained injuries during the protests after Sterling’s death.