Protesters tried to shut down Wednesday's Baton Rouge Metro Council meeting by speaking about Alton Sterling's death while council members were holding public comment periods for mundane items, but one by one, several protesters were kicked out.
Sterling was fatally shot by a Baton Rouge police officer last July, and the Department of Justice announced last week it will not pursue federal civil rights charges against the police officers involved. The case is now being investigated by the state Attorney General's Office for any state criminal charges and by the Police Department's internal affairs unit for any policy infractions.
New details in the investigation into Alton Sterling's death have put the spotlight back on …
A "shut down the Metro Council" protest was planned, and was publicized, for Wednesday's Metro Council meeting to call for firing the officers.
While major protests flared up after Sterling was killed last year, those following the Department of Justice announcement in Baton Rouge have been smaller and more subdued.
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Protesters at the Metro Council meeting did not make it far in their comments about Sterling before Baton Rouge police officers escorted them from the meeting.
The pattern started when local NAACP head Michael McClanahan tried to talk about about Sterling when the Metro Council had opened the floor for public input on a sewer backup.
"You can either talk on the (agenda) item or you can leave," said Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wilson, who issued a warning before the meeting began that he would kick out anyone being disruptive.
"I oppose this item because on July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling was killed," McClanahan responded. Police officers at the meeting then escorted him out. Audience members remained in their seats but chanted "no justice, no peace," before the meeting resumed.
Gary Chambers, publisher of The Rouge Collection, then employed the same strategy of talking about Sterling when the Metro Council was discussing another sewer backup.
"Alton Sterling was murdered on July 5," Chambers said. "Scott Wilson, you are a coward, I have the right to be here."
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While Chambers struggled against police officers leading him out of the Council Chambers, a group of about 25 protesters followed him into the City Hall lobby and elevators. They used their cell phones to capture video while Chambers told police officers he did not want to be escorted out by BRPD's Special Response Team members.
Downstairs in front of City Hall, officers handcuffed Chambers and escorted him into a police car on St. Louis Street while protesters chanted "no justice, no peace." BRPD issued Chambers a summons for disturbing the peace and resisting an officer and then they released him, said BRPD spokesman Lt. Jonny Dunnam.
After being thrown out of the meeting, many demonstrators spilled outside of City Hall where about a dozen police officers were standing by. Sandra Sterling, aunt of Alton Sterling, confronted a group of officers, yelling and collapsing in the middle of St. Louis Street.
"You've got sons who could have been murdered that way!" she yelled. "He was murdered! … You saw that video, you saw (Baton Rouge Police officer Blane) Salamoni put that gun to that boy's head!"
With his handgun drawn, Baton Rouge policeman Blane Salamoni first approached Alton Sterling…
McClanahan yelled at the officials, "This ain't Syria, this is America. … The law's not dead!"
Addressing reporters outside, McClanahan said he was angry the Metro Council did not allow the public to speak about the Sterling decision.
Several more protesters were thrown out as well, including some who tried to speak about resolutions proposed by Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso in opposition to bills filed in the Louisiana Legislature by state Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge. One of James' bills would remove the BRPD chief from Civil Service protections, and another would change leave policies for police officers under investigation. Metro Council members deferred voting on Amoroso's proposed resolutions.
"We feel hurt and we feel disrespected, we feel we are not safe in this city, and we are telling you concrete things you can do to make us feel safe in the city," said Lynn Espinoza. When she mentioned firing the police officers involved in the Sterling incident, Wilson kicked her out. She was the final protester to be kicked out of the meeting, and the Metro Council carried on its agenda without discussing the protests afterward.
Though Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome sat through the Metro Council meeting, she did not react to the protesters being thrown out. She ignored an Advocate reporter who asked her about them afterward, and her body guard blocked the reporter from following her.
Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks said after the meeting she understood the reasons for the protest but she wished more people would have had an opportunity to speak, saying the protesters "did not get very far along."
Wilson defended his actions, saying he warned the meeting attendees in advance.
"We have business for the city to conduct and it can't be disrupted and our meetings can't be shut down," he said.
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A small but vocal crowd gathered outside the Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters Satu…