Judge approves settlement for protesters arrested after Alton Sterling shooting

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A federal judge has approved a settlement in the class action lawsuit brought by protesters against Baton Rouge law enforcement agencies.

At a hearing Friday morning, U.S. District Judge John deGravelles approved cash payments for 69 protesters arrested for obstructing a highway last summer after the officer-involved shooting that left Alton Sterling dead.

"This is a clear victory. I'm definitely glad that we're getting some justice," said Kira Marrero, who was arrested during the demonstrations along Airline Highway. The 24-year-old from New Orleans is one of those who qualifies for a payout as part of the settlement.

RELATED CONTENT: Alton Sterling Shooting

The lawsuit alleges law enforcement officials violated the constitutional rights of protesters.

"The instruction [the police officers] were following at least were not to protect our rights, to not protect the citizens here," Marrero said, reflecting on the night she was arrested.

In court, deGravelles said the settlement "appears very fair." He also praised the lawyers for reaching the agreement, saying it "touches on many sensitive issues" and had the potential to be "destructive."

Under the settlement, protesters jailed for one or two days will be eligible for a $500 payment. Those jailed for three days could get a $750 payout. And those jailed for four or more days will qualify for a $1,000 payment.

As part of the agreement, those with bonds and attorney fees will also be reimbursed. The protesters will also have the obstruction of a highway charge expunged from their records at no cost. The overall cost of the settlement is estimated to be approximately $136,000, according to the judge.

Black Lives Matter movement leader, DeRay Mckesson, is among the arrested protesters eligible for cash payments. He was at the court for the Friday decision.

"This is one just piece of a larger conversation about changing the police," Mckesson said. "There was so much that happened that night that needs to be addressed and this was not the forum to address those."

The settlement was approved by all parties in the courtroom, including representatives from East Baton Rouge Parish government and Louisiana State Police.

However, the agreement has faced push back from the public. In a statement last year, Sgt. Bryan Taylor, president of the Baton Rouge Union of Police, called the settlement a "slap in the face to the officers" and said it set a "dangerous precedent" for future demonstrations.

After Friday's hearing, Mckesson argued back, saying the protests and the lawsuit were "completely avoidable."

"We shouldn't have to be in the street at all. If Alton [Sterling] was here, there wouldn't have been protests in the streets of Baton Rouge," he said.

An unnamed Baton Rouge police officer sued Black Lives Matter and Mckesson over injuries he claimed he received during the protest. A federal judge tossed that lawsuit out.

Meanwhile on Friday, U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson threw out a second lawsuit against Mckesson, that one filed by a East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office deputy. The hearing was originally scheduled to take place on September 21, but was postponed.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.