One day after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, demonstrators held a drive-by protest outside of the East Baton Rouge Parish jail to call for accountability for deaths of inmates.
They chanted "44, no more!" referencing the 44 inmates who have died in the jail since 2012 — a death rate significantly higher than the national average.
About a dozen cars drove past the jail several times, honking and shouting, before parking outside for a speech from Linda Franks, whose son died while in custody at the facility.
“The inequity of accountability must not be tolerated,” Franks said.
Franks is a member of the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition, the group that led the protest. Members congregated at an overpass near the jail Saturday morning to decorate cars and signs for the "Caravan for Justice" before they departed for the facility.
Franks spoke to demonstrators there as well, underscoring the mission of seeking justice for those incarcerated people at the jail.
The group has recently supported a lawsuit to end cash bail at the facility and has regularly called for a new health care provider inside the jail.
“We are fighting for justice for everyone — an equitable justice," Franks said. "Not just for the privileged few, not just for the ones who can afford bail, but for everyone. Until we can support that in any manner, we will never have peace.”
Demonstrators held a moment of silence and prayer before they packed into their cars and set off to circle the buildings. Signs in the windows displayed slogans like, "Honk for justice," and one truck had "CLOSE EBRPP" painted on the side.
Eventually the small group parked on the shoulder of the road and gathered in a cluster alongside the barbed wire fencing surrounding the jail complex.
“We’re here for all of you, and we love you," Franks said. "Your community believes in reconciliation...We are here for you and we are fighting for equitable justice."
“We are watching, we are looking,” Franks said. “We can do better and we must do better. And it starts right here with how we treat the least among us.”
She said the organization would hold officials accountable for mistreatment, among other grievances. Only when these issues are recognized and the people and institutions responsible held to account would there be healing in the community, she said.
“We can’t keep covering up these wounds and thinking they’re going to heal,” she said.
In closing, Franks led the group in the Civil Rights anthem, "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around," before they departed in their vehicles.