Community activists sue Mayor Pro Tem, City of Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A heated Metro Council meeting in which several people were tossed out is now at the center of a lawsuit.

Three community activists claim their rights to free speech were violated and they want a judge to hear them out.

It's hard to forget the Baton Rouge metro council meeting that happened just one week after the U.S. Department of Justice announced on May 3, 2017 that it would not be filing charges against the two Baton Rouge police officers accused in the 2016 shooting death of Alton Sterling. Protesters were fired up and ready to make their voices heard before their elected officials.

RELATED: Metro council removes community members from meeting for planned disruption

Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wilson ordered police to escort several people from the council chambers during public comment for speaking on topics he said were unrelated to that night's council agenda.

Three of the six people removed from the room were local NAACP President Michael McClanahan, radio talk show host, Gary Chambers, and the director of prevention for the HIV/Aids Alliance, Eugene Collins. Each began to speak about the Alton Sterling shooting and were escorted out in less than a minute.

MCCLANAHAN (speaking during the public comment period): I'm speaking against proposed item on the agenda today as a citizen of this community…

Collins was removed less than three seconds after he started talking. McClanahan, Chambers, and Collins are part of a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court against Wilson and the City of Baton Rouge.

It alleges Wilson violated the men's rights of free speech when he had them removed and that he only did so because he did not like their viewpoints. The men's attorney, William Most, calls it discrimination.

"The pattern is clear. You say Alton Sterling, Scott Wilson he orders the police to remove you. You talk about something else you are allowed to continue talking," Most told WAFB.

The lawsuit also alleges that Wilson and the city have a "long history" of suppressing the voices of black citizens. Attorney Most pointed out this exchange between Wilson and white citizen Coby Weaver as an example of that.

WEAVER (speaking during the public comment period): Stand up and make people be held accountable… use your power… for your citizen... I also like how I was not violently removed from talking up here like the two men before me who stood and spoke. I said same the same things. As soon as they said as soon as two black men said the words Alton Sterling; July 5 you violently grabbed them and removed them from this room.

Most says his clients are not looking to make money in this case, rather, they want a judge to declare that what Wilson did to them during the May 10, 2017, meeting was unconstitutional.

Both Wilson and the city attorney, Lee Anne Batson, declined to comment on the suit.

Click here to see a copy of the lawsuit.

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