DA will not seek charges against 100 out of 185 protesters arres - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

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DA will not seek charges against 100 out of 185 protesters arrested

(Source: WAFB) (Source: WAFB)
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

District Attorney Hillar Moore, III announced Friday that his office has reviewed reports for those arrested during protests in Baton Rouge and will not seek formal charges for 100 out of the 185 of the cases. 

Moore said his office is still looking into cases of two other groups, which include 30 percent who face obstruction charges but are also charged with resisting arrest and did not cooperate with police and 10 percent who may have acted violently.

Over a four day period, several protests were held at various locations throughout Baton Rouge. They were all related to the officer-involved shooting death of Alton Sterling.

"The vast majority of the people that were arrested were nonviolent. They just disobeyed commands, so compared to other places, we were very fortunate in that regard,” Moore said.

RELATED: Protester claims he was brutally beaten by BRPD officers during peaceful demonstration

The majority of the cases being dismissed, a press release confirms, are those charged with the misdemeanor crime of obstruction of a roadway or public passage. 

"These particular cases only involve facts where the person arrested failed to comply with an officer’s direction to leave the roadway or public passage.  While all citizens have the right to assemble and protest, they do not have the right to block streets and impede the flow of traffic. Under Louisiana law, first-time offenders, should they avoid further arrests and convictions, may have their misdemeanor arrests expunged from the criminal history records of the State of Louisiana at no cost."

The press release notes that four protesters remain in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison due to "other matters." 

"The District Attorney’s staff continues to perform reviews of each individual arrest arising from any protest and advises that persons who have engaged in repeated offenses, assaults, resisting arrest, or other violent acts will continue to face prosecution in the Courts of the 19th Judicial District."

The ACLU of Louisiana issued a response to the DA's announcement Friday afternoon:

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar R. Moore announced today that more than half of the people arrested over a three day period of protests between July 8 – July 11 will not be charged with a crime. This should not be seen as a victory for the protesters, because they should not have been arrested in the first place.

All people do indeed have the right to assemble and protest – but that right is not respected when our police declare peaceful assemblies unlawful, or arrest people on trumped-up "obstruction” charges for placing a single toe on the side of the road. The police were violently aggressive, and showed little restraint and poor judgment in terms of who they arrested. This development simply underscores the reasons for the lawsuit that has been filed in federal court.  

Marjorie Esman, executive director for the organization said the move is a step in the right direction for the many people she believes had their 1st Amendment rights stomped on by law enforcement.

"It's really, I think a tragedy that the public has had to endure his very difficult week of people being arrested wrongly and now it's vindication that the arrests were wrongful. It just should never have happened,” Esman said.

She said hopefully the decision will change how law enforcement responds if and when people decide to peacefully assemble going forward.

"I am hoping that the Baton Rouge Police will take this message seriously from their District Attorney and behave more appropriately as the weekend progresses,” she added.

9News reached out to BRPD, whose spokesperson issued the following statement regarding the announcement:

"We are going to review our policy and proceed forward within the boundaries of the law.”

Moore said as his office continues to review cases, he urges anyone with video or other evidence to submit it to his office.

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