The images from weekend protests over the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., were disturbing. Armored trucks being driven into crowds of protesters, long-range noise-making devices being deployed to disperse crowds and phalanxes of heavily armed officers marching toward protesters were just a few of the sights that made it onto social media.
Now, a group of black elected officials in the Baton Rouge area have written a public letter to authorities voicing their concerns over how police are responding to the protests.
"In the wake of the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, and the Dallas Police Officers, we, the Black Elected Officials of the City of East Baton Rouge stand with the Nation in an outcry for justice as well as with The Sterling family and our local citizens," the letter states.
The letter asks that local police:
- Refrain from verbal and physical taunting and use of tactical force.
- That arrested protesters be charged under municipal laws with misdemeanor offenses.
- That arrested protesters not be transported to outside prison facilities and kept at the City Parish Jail.
"We are seeking the following resolve: That law enforcement refrain from exercising behavior that provokes the community as they protest, march, or hold community events," the letter states.
Other topics covered by the letter include setting up a Community Command Center in downtown Baton Rouge and asking that protesters refrain from activity on the day of Sterling's funeral.
Baton Rouge police's initial response to protests following Alton Sterling's death was noted in the media as being restrained and hands-off, but the response escalated over the weekend. Black Lives Matter DeRay Mckesson was arrested at a Saturday evening protest and police cracked down on a Sunday march after it attempted to block an interstate highway that runs through downtown Baton Rouge.
Hopefully local law enforcement listen to the officials who wrote the letter. Given Gov. John Bel Edwards' warning that the Department of Justice investigation into Sterling's death would take time, there might be a lot more protests before there is justice.