The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana on Friday issued a warning to state and local law enforcement to respect the First Amendment rights of protesters.
As protests break out nationwide over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the organization reminded officials of law enforcement's pledge to respect the right to peacefully protest as part of a 2016 settlement.
That year, Louisiana and Baton Rouge law enforcement agencies agreed to settle a civil rights lawsuit that stemmed from Alton Sterling's death. Sterling was shot and killed by a Baton Rouge Police Officer. In that settlement signed by law enforcement and civil rights advocates, law enforcement agreed to recognize the rights of all people to "recognize the rights of all persons to assemble and engage in the public for the purpose of peaceful public discourse and protest."
"The protests in Minnesota and across the country are a direct response to the systemic violence and racial terror that police have perpetrated in Black communities for centuries," said Alanah Odoms Hebert, ACLU of Louisiana executive director. "Just weeks from the anniversary of Alton Sterling's brutal killing at the hands of Baton Rouge police, the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd as he desperately cried for help is a reminder of the deadly toll that systemic racism takes on our communities each and every day. These officers must be held accountable - but much more than that, every one of us has an obligation to address the deeply-rooted racism that pervades our institutions and poisons our society. As we stand in solidarity with all those mourning and demonstrating against George Floyd's murder, we remind state and local law enforcement of the commitment they made to respect protesters' First Amendment rights and avoid excessive or militarized responses to peaceful protest activity."
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