Baton Rouge community leaders call for action after protests

Community leaders address need for change as protests continue

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - As demonstrations continue across the country, many protesters got something they wanted, charges have been filed on all four officers involved in George Floyd’s death.

Those charges are only part of the demands demonstrators have though. Many want sweeping changes to a system they deem racist and oppressive to minorities.

“What we need now more than ever is accountability and systematic change to make sure when things do happen there’s accountability set up where everyone is tried equally,” said Boo Milton, a community activist in Baton Rouge.

Milton grew up in Baton Rouge. He has spent most of his time fighting back against the injustices he said he has experienced as a black man.

“I’ve felt the split,” he said. “They call Florida Boulevard the Mason-Dixon Line. It’s wild. It’s two different worlds whenever you cross over Florida Boulevard, you know, housing, a lot of different things, food access, it’s, even whenever we talk about the allocation of funds in our school system it’s just not equitable.“

The protests over the weekend crossed the “Mason-Dixon Line” and ended up on Siegen Lane. Protest leaders said they chose that area because it is an economic hub for East Baton Rouge Parish and is in the area that has tried to “segregate” itself by forming its own city, St. George.

Milton said while the city and parish have made strides in correcting injustices, the protests highlight key issues that still need to be fixed.

“It’s not a wake-up call to say nothing has changed, this is a wake-up call to say we have a long way to go,” he said.

Reverend Dale Flowers are among the people helping activists, like Milton, continue down the path of justice.

Flowers is the pastor at New Sunlight Baptist and the former police chief at Southern University. He has a unique perspective to bring to the table.

“These protests are bringing officers together with protesters in areas where they never would have before,” Flowers said. “They’re interacting now.”

Flowers said now that communication has begun, the dialogue between all parties can move to how to move forward.

“Once you’ve achieved the attention then it’s about having those conversations and moving those conversations into practices, whether they be laws or ordinances or whatever we’re going to need to ensure we have justice and liberty for all America and not against one part of America,” he said.

Both Flowers and Milton said those policies need to address issues in the criminal justice and education system.

“Instead of saying this is mandatory sentencing, I think we need to get away from that and allow a judge to sentence and not be obligated to sentencing a person for 20 years for something that maybe only deserves probation or only 5 years if convicted or leave it to the discretion of the judge. I think we also need to reform when it comes to interaction with police officers themselves,” Flowers said. “That means there needs to be some better training for the police on how to interact with the individuals. Again, a police officer is to deescalate a situation and not come in and escalate it where it gets out of hand. I think our officers can be better trained.”

To do this, Milton said no one can get lax in the conversations.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a teacher, if your somebody that works at a grocery store, if you’re a political figure, no matter where you’re at, that energy needs to be relayed to everybody you speak to, everybody that you talk to, just that message of love and unity and that’s how we keep this conversation going,” Milton said.

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