Baton Rouge settles with DeRay Mckesson and Alton Sterling protesters

This article is more than 4 years old

Metro Council approves payment of no more than $25,000 for each protester who filed lawsuit for arrest while demonstrating after black man’s shooting

deray mckesson protest
Activist DeRay Mckesson was arrested during the Alton Sterling protest in Baton Rouge on 9 July. Photograph: Max Becherer/AP
Activist DeRay Mckesson was arrested during the Alton Sterling protest in Baton Rouge on 9 July. Photograph: Max Becherer/AP
Associated Press in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Last modified on Fri 12 Jun 2020 07.13 EDT

The Baton Rouge Metro Council approved a settlement on Tuesday paying activist DeRay Mckesson and other protesters arrested during summer demonstrations over the shooting death of Alton Sterling.

The Advocate reports that under the terms of the deal, the city government, the Louisiana state police, the East Baton Rouge sheriff’s office and the district attorney’s office will pay no more than $25,000 each for a total of about $100,000.

Mckesson was among nearly 200 protesters arrested after Sterling, a black man, was shot on 5 July during a struggle with two white police officers. His shooting death sparked widespread protests in the city about the treatment of black people at the hands of police.

The federal class action suit accuses police of excessive force and violating their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly.

The 4 August lawsuit says police advanced against protesters while wearing military gear and gas masks and brandishing assault weapons alongside armored vehicles. Officers threatened peaceful protesters by pointing weapons directly at them, the suit says.

Louisiana’s governor, John Bel Edwards, has said the officers’ use of riot gear and weaponry was an appropriate response. The governor, a Democrat who comes from a family of sheriffs, also noted that a police officer had teeth knocked out by a rock during the protests.

Two of the 12-member council voted against the settlement, including John Delgado, who was furious at the payout.

“To me, this encourages that type of behavior to happen in the future,” Delgado said. “I have no interest in paying $100,000 in taxpayer dollars to people who are coming into our city to protest.”

But parish attorney Lea Anne Batson said the price is much smaller than what the city might have had to pay if only one of the 92 plaintiffs had been able to prove they had been wrongfully arrested.

This does not end the legal drama surrounding the Sterling shooting and ensuing protests. The Department of Justice is still investigating Sterling’s death. And an unnamed Baton Rouge police officer who claims he was injured during one of the protests is suing Mckesson as well as Black Lives Matter.