Both sides comment on signed agreement in civil suit after July demonstrations

Both sides comment on signed agreement in civil suit after July demonstrations

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Two different civil suits were filed after the demonstrations in July.

One suit was settled last week with demonstrators actually getting money. The second suit settled with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), or an agreement.

The agreement was signed by law enforcement and the leaders of various groups who demonstrated after the Alton Sterling shooting. The agreement involves all parties: demonstrators, Baton Rouge Police Department, East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, Louisiana State Police and the City of Baton Rouge. All agreed to the terms in the MOU.

"It's simply laying out the expectation from the citizens of Baton Rouge for the Baton Rouge Police Department that we will not be intimidated and our voices will be heard," said Crystal Williams with North Baton Rouge Matters.

North Baton Rouge Matters is one of the parties that filed the civil suit.

"We just simply won't tolerate their behavior and that's basically what this lawsuit was about. That's what the memorandum is about. It's making it clearly documented that we have certain expectations when we come together and protest because we will come together and protest. We will not stop," Williams explained.

"When you look at it, I think we both admit to the fact that everyone has rights and as a police department, we've got to sit there and take those rights and respect them but also understand that we're about public safety," said Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of Louisiana State Police.

These are some things agreed on:

Demonstrators have the right to assemble & speak on sidewalks
Get a permit if demonstrations will be blocking traffic
Law enforcement will help get those permits
If demonstrators block roadways that are not closed for them, they will be arrested after police tell them to move
Law enforcement and demonstrators will work together to designate "free speech" locations
Demonstrators will not walk on, along or across I-10, I-12 or I-110 or the interstate ramps
Police will issue commands if riots or unlawful disturbances break out
In turn, law enforcement expects compliance to those commands

The agreement ends with, "Nothing herein should be construed to limit law enforcement from fulfilling their sworn constitutional or statutory duties."

However, Williams said the fact that law enforcement agreed to these terms means something.

"When they come to a point they're actually willing to have those conversations, I do believe there is some admittance of fault in the way we were treated," Williams added.

Edmonson signed the agreement and said it helped start the conversation with law enforcement listening to the public, but he defends his troopers' deployment strategy and said that will not change.

"Certainly, I can speak for State Police and I back the tactics that we did during the protest," Edmonson explained.

This MOU solidifies what we have said from the beginning. The State Police not only supports the public's right to protest but will help facilitate their opportunity to protest as long as the law is followed. Our deployment strategy will continue to
be reactionary based on the actions of the protestors. There are 3 nonnegotiable actions: 1. Violence, 2. Destruction of property, 3. Unauthorized obstruction of a major US highway or interstate. It is extremely important to me as Superintendent of State Police that open conversations that have beneficial results continue to be on going between the police and the public we serve. It is a healthy scenario and one in which I believe the public is better served.

- Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of Louisiana State Police


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