Attorney talks legal rights with protesters following weekend arrests

Attorney talks legal rights with protesters following weekend arrests

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - For the first time in days, it was a quiet evening outside Baton Rouge Police Headquarters, but that doesn't mean protesters are done. Several demonstrators met up Monday evening to talk about what's next and, more importantly, what are their rights when protesting.

At the end of three days worth of emotional, and at times chaotic, protests and demonstrations in Baton Rouge, nearly 200 protesters were behind bars. According to law enforcement, 30 people were arrested during protests on Friday, 102 were arrested Saturday and 50 were arrested Sunday.

Records show the vast majority of arrests were for charges of obstruction of a highway, something the district attorney described as a minor misdemeanor. There were also a few charges of inciting to riot and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.

"When we're going out protesting, we need to be cognizant of laws. If you're going out and you violate the laws, expect to be arrested, don't expect to get out anytime soon," said Mike McClanahan, president of the Baton Rouge NAACP Chapter.

McClanahan explained that the NAACP and other groups in town have set up a defense fund to pay for bail and provide legal help for protester arrested, but he said jail time is not their goal.

Following the weekend arrests, the group Stop the Violence Baton Rouge organized a meeting for demonstrators with an attorney and other leaders to discuss legal rights when protesting.

"You have the right to protest in America. You have a right to free speech. You do not have the right to threaten the police," said attorney Gail Ray.

Ray reminded the demonstrators that marches required a permit. She also urged protester not to carry weapons. Despite Louisiana's open carry law, she said even legally displaying weapons is not worth the risk.

After Ray took questions about legal statutes and advice, the group of about 100 turned to talk of what's next. Some wanted to create a more organized approach moving forward by connecting community group leaders. Others wanted immediate action. However, many were hesitant to discuss any plans of future protests in front of reporters.

As speakers debated, McClanahan advised patience. The NAACP chapter president compared bringing about change to a marathon, slow and steady.

"We have to be smart about going out and protesting because this is our city and we must be peaceful. We must not be violent. We must do thing decent and order," McClanahan said.

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