Last updated: 8:52 p.m.; July 10, 2016
Kira Marrero walked out of East Baton Rouge Parish Prison at 3 p.m. Sunday, about 17 hours after she was arrested during a protest over the killing of Alton Sterling.
Hugging her dad then talking with media, the 22-year-old Marrero said that as she took part in the protest along Airline Highway in front of Baton Rouge Police headquarters, officers were pointing guns at her even though she was off the road and on the grass, as instructed.
“I have no doubt in my mind I did nothing wrong,” said Marrero, who is from New Orleans.
After a lengthy wait in Parish Prison on a count of obstruction of the road, Marrero was the first of more than 100 people arrested during Saturday night’s protest to be released Sunday, followed shortly by the release of Black Lives Matter leader DeRay Mckesson at 3:30 p.m.
“I continue to be disappointed with the Baton Rouge Police Department,” Mckesson said as he left the prison.
In tweets shortly after his release, Mckesson said: “At times, all 50 of us were in one cell, unable to all sit, sleeping on the floor or under the benches. But our spirits remained strong.”
“In the (parish) prison cells, we continued to talk about the work of social justice & to build community. We all continue to grow,” Mckesson said in another Tweet.
Many other families and friends were still outside prison gates late into Sunday afternoon, waiting for news about what bail had been set or what they should do to get relatives home.
As of 6 p.m., only a handful of people had been released. One of those was WAFB Assistant News Director Chris Slaughter.
“Chris Slaughter is a dedicated journalist who has worked tirelessly to report on this historic event,” WAFB News Director Robb Hays said on the station’s website. The station reported Slaughter said he put one foot on the highway to get a better angle for a video shoot when he was arrested.
Two other journalists, WWNO reporter Ryan Kailath and Breitbart News reporter Lee Stranahan, were also arrested, but had not been released by mid-Sunday evening.
Earlier Sunday, state Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, of Baton Rouge, expressed her frustration about the slow release process.
“I’m trying to figure out why these people are still in jail,” she said. “They did it to be difficult.”
Instead of booking the protesters for violating city ordinances, which would have meant an automatic bail being set, she said, authorities were booking protesters under state statutes that require a hearing. Marcelle said the point seemed to be showing other protestors that if they get arrested, it’s not going to be a quick stay.
“You don’t put people in jail and don’t give them a way out,” she said.
Each case of a protester accused of obstructing a highway — the most common count that some 100 demonstrators were booked on Saturday night and early Sunday — will be reviewed to see whether it will be prosecuted, said East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar C. Moore III.
Moore acknowledged there’s a spectrum of actions that could constitute obstructing a highway, ranging from walking in the road to something more serious.
“Actively barricading themselves in the street, that’s a different story,” he said.
He said if protesters were accused of obstructing Airline Highway, which is a state highway, those would result in state charges. However, cases against demonstrators arrested on Goodwood Boulevard, which intersects Airline Highway at police headquarters, might be handled by City Court prosecutors.
While many of the affidavits of probable cause for some 100 protesters booked with obstructing a highway appear to have identical wording, Moore says that’s not necessarily a problem.
An individual incident report, however — none of which have so far been released — is supposed to outline the specific allegations in each case, and those are the documents Moore’s office would rely on for prosecution, he said.
Roman Bates, 29, of Baton Rouge, was waiting for news about his sister, cousin and their spouses at 4 p.m.
“They keep saying 20 minutes, 20 minutes,” Bates said, who had been waiting at the prison for four hours. He talked to his sister, who said that they were staying out of the street when the police went after them.
A similar story came from Yolanda Freeman, 49, of Baton Rouge, who was waiting for release information about her daughter, Monisha Freeman.
“At the point when they arrested her, all the protesters were off the street,” she said, showing a video of the protest. Her cousin, Megan McCarter, 31, from Houston, said Monisha Freeman was targeted for arrest because she raised her fist in a black power salute.
McCarter said the protest was peaceful, but every 15 to 30 minutes, the police would line up in front of the protesters, then go into the crowd to arrest people.
“Just arresting random people out of the crowd,” McCarter said, adding that it appeared that law enforcement went after people who were making a statement. “They were just making examples of people.”
Authorities deny that and defend the arrests.
“We’ve been very clear that we want them to have every opportunity to protest and voice their opinion,” said Doug Cain, State Police spokesman. “But if you move into the roadway and break the law, you’re going to be arrested.”
Travis Day, 34, of Baton Rouge, walked out about 5 p.m. and said he got arrested about 5 p.m. the previous day. He pointed to a cut on his face, saying the police hit him with a club.
“I’m going back,” he said about rejoining the protesters. “I’m black. I’m riding with Black Lives Matter.”
Willa Conway, who is working with the Louisiana National Lawyer’s Guild, arrived Sunday evening to gather names of people leaving the prison. She said the guild has raised $100,000 of a $300,000 goal as part of the Baton Rouge Bail Fund to help arrested protestors. So far, she said, 78 people have reached out to the guild for help with their bond.
Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10. Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau.