“He who makes a beast of himself, gets rid of the pain of being a man.” Samuel L. Johnson
I attended a rally, march and vigil for Alton Sterling and all those murdered by police this past Sunday, July 10, 2016 in Baton Rouge. The vigil was the most healing part of this day, though the whole action was powerful, inspiring, and filled with love & community and a strong demonstration of unity. But it was also filled with violence and terror by police. They had road blocks to every off-ramp and on-ramp to the freeways and major roads, like they were preparing for war…this protest was literally made up of college and high school kids, elders, church folk wearing matching shirts, and community activists and organizers. Two cop helicopters circled above us, even during the vigil.
The following took place during the march:
- 300 officers showed up in full riot gear with rubber bullets, gas canisters, shields, gas masks, tanks with guns, and military grade assault rifles.
- They formed three Pop-Up lines. Police deploy lines of officers who obstruct demonstrator movement, either misdirecting them, splitting up groups, or detaining and arresting the demonstrators. These are unconstitutional.
- They used three Pop-Up lines to create a U to ambush protestors
- Barricaded protestors into private property and then arrested them for trespassing.
- They pointed 150 military grade assault weapons onto the peaceful protestors and commanded them to disperse w/out any place to disperse to.
- The Baton Rouge Police Department, the Northern Baton Rough Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, and State Police were all at the scene. This is a tactic often used to distract from any one agency taking responsibility for any neglect, brutality, or unjustified law enforcement action.
- There were several concussions, people covered in blood, and one person whose eye socket came out.
- People were asked to go to their cars, and once they crossed the street they were arrested for obstruction.
- Latinos present at the march were being targeted as undocumented immigrants and detained, which is why I took my green card with me, and had someone take a picture of it in case I was detained and it went missing.
- A plane-clothes cop was seen throwing a rock at another plane-clothes cop and disappeared. These cops are knows as provocateurs to insight riots in an otherwise peaceful march/protest. This was documented by a legal observer of the National Lawyers Guild.
- There were more than 180 arrests over the weekend, 85 on Sunday.
Here are a couple videos:
I had the opportunity to speak to many folk, amongst whom were black men who were professionals, community organizers, college & high school students, sons, uncles, fathers and grandpas. Many stories told of being stopped so many times they had lost count. One father told me he had been stopped upwards of 50 times. His wife is a lawyer, so he already has her on speed dial, so she can hear and record the interactions. He describes the following each time he gets pulled over:
“I automatically take my keys out of the ignition, hold them with my index finger and thumb, roll my windo down, and put both of my hands out of the window. My goal is just to make it home to my family.”
His son lives in Baton Rouge and was in the same band that Alton Sterling’s son was in. He said if his son wanted to walk along Sterling’s son, then he would be there to walk along with his son. The determination and resilience of the people there was heart-opening to say the least.
For further readings on the situation in Baton Rouge, please read: