Citizens pack Southern University for lesson in protest rights

Citizens pack Southern University for lesson in protest rights
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - People from across the state gathered at Southern University on Saturday for a refresher course on first amendment rights.

It included a PowerPoint and video presentation of demonstrations that have happened across the country.

Protesters have not been shy in voicing their frustrations over the police shooting that resulted in the death of Alton Sterling. Thirty demonstrators were arrested in Baton Rouge overnight for various reasons, including obstructing a highway and inciting a riot.

"We tell people to take deep breaths and remember you are impartial and on the sidelines," said Mandisa Moore-O'Neal.

O'Neal, a legal coordinator for the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), is behind a program that teaches the public their legal limits in protest situations. The people who attend the seminar are volunteers who are being trained by a team of legal professionals to become Legal Observers.

"A legal observer is someone who is on the sidelines, not a protester, not involved with the activity," said O'Neal.

President of the NLG Southern University chapter, Ada Goodly, said their job is simply to monitor protests and take notes.

"What to look for, what cues to give protesters as they are protesting. They'll learn how to not engage, how to disengage feelings and emotions. They'll learn a little bit about the legal limits of protesting peacefully," Goodly said.

The trainees are shown a series of demonstrations from across the country before discussing the specifics of each and any activity that may have been outside of protesters' rights.

"We also want to make sure the police are conducting themselves in a way that promotes community police engagement positively," Goodly said.

Once they leave here, O'Neal said the observers will have the skills they need to help others express themselves in public without paying legal consequences.

"The most important thing they will learn is that one drop is not going to move a mill, but millions of drops will move a mill. You are a part of a line of really important work that's making our nation better for everyone," O'Neal said.

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