Even though a Black Baton Rouge judge convicted three Black protesters who blocked a Louisiana highway in a protest following Alton Sterling‘s death, she opted for a six-month probation and community service instead of jail time.
State District Judge Bonnie Jackson found Krystal Sonia, Deon Fountain and Kiara Jones guilty of simple obstruction Tuesday when they dressed in all black and blocked Airline Highway outside Baton Rouge police headquarters two years ago, according to the Washington Post.
The charges stem from a 2017 protest the night before federal officials announced they wouldn’t charge two white officers accused in the death of Sterling, an unarmed black man.
The determination was made even though body camera video released last year showed a policeman later identified as Blane Salamoni threatening to shoot Sterling, cursing at him, ordering a Taser be used on him and firing the fatal shots July 5, 2016.
The decision inspired protests throughout the country, and Sonia and Jones were among some 200 people arrested in those early protests, according to The Advocate. The women weren’t prosecuted in those arrests.
They were, however, arrested again in May 2017 along with Fountain. Sonia and Fountain were tried together Tuesday, and Jones’ trial followed, the Advocate reported.
Sonia also was convicted of resisting an officer and illegally carrying a loaded .38-caliber revolver, and Jones was also found guilty of resisting an officer.
Prosecutor April Leon said Sonia and Fountain created a public safety concern for themselves, drivers and other protesters, but their attorney, Gregory Payton, argued the evidence was insufficient to determine whether they had broken the law.
The Advocate reported that the judge ultimately sided with the prosecutor after a police sergeant testified one 18-wheeler had to navigate around the protesters to avoid hitting them.
Still, Sonia described her arrest as unfair during sentencing.
“There were over 20 white people in the street. They were never arrested,” she said.
Jones, who was accused of obstructing traffic, waving a Black Panther flag in the road and spitting at an officer, denied the allegations against her at her trial, the Advocate reported.
The judge said she respects Jones’ passion but that dialogue is the key to resolving disputes, the newspaper reported.
“What is anger changing?” Jackson asked. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
Jones was acquitted of the battery charge involving the spitting allegation, and Fountain, who was also charged with resisting an officer, was found not guilty of that charge.