Protesters join discussion about police reform in Baton Rouge
BATON ROUGE - Instead of marching through downtown streets, a group upset over the perceived slow investigation into the officer-involved shooting death of Alton Sterling this summer took over a meeting where city leaders were outlining ideas on new police policies.
"We want to press upon our local government but also go all the way to feds that we want a decision on the investigation," Cleve Dunn, Jr., said about why he and others gathered Monday. "We are pressing upon the Department of Justice, our mayor, Kip Holden, as well as our Governor... to solicit a time line of some type of idea of when we can get a decision."
The shooting death of Sterling, a black man, by two white Baton Rouge Police officers is under review by federal authorities.
Cell phone video from the owner of the store showed the officers wrestle Sterling to the ground before he was shot multiple times. The video caused national outcry that led to protests and the shooting of officers in Dallas and three more officers in Baton Rouge.
A list of demands from the group of protesters has been circulating on social media requesting both Mayor Holden and Gov. John Bel Edwards send letters to President Obama at Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking for the Department of Justice "swiftly conclude its investigation" into the case.
The list also requests a task force consisting of local protesters and community advocates to reform the Baton Rouge Police Department. The list also asks the state and local government to to include black-owned businesses in renegotiations. The list states that "You cannot prevent an Alton Sterling encounter without economic development in black communities."
Originally planning to walk from downtown to the Governor's Mansion around lunch, the group instead attended a city police policy discussion where changes to policies ranging from pay to officers' residency to how officers handle potentially conflicts are being considered. Before, though, Sterling's family members gathered outside City Hall where his aunts thanked protesters attending.
"You're coming out for every black man, woman and child that has been murdered, that has been slain by the police officers," Sterling's aunt said.
Another one of Sterling's aunts stated that she is tired of hearing and seeing the same tragic events happening around the country.
"As much as I hate to see those videos, I want them to play everyday so you wouldn't forget but I don't have to because it's happening in other places," Sterling's aunt said.
Another frustrated family member, Sandra Sterling, said she is frustrated with the case in Baton Rouge. "We should just go to one of those other states where they are policing their police. That's what we need to do, just pack up and move," she said.
Councilwoman Tara Wicker said she appreciated the conversation Monday. "Having the protesters there, having a packed room... it gave us an opportunity to really fast-forward effects to bring in a larger community," she said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated; the original story was related to the planned protest in downtown; protesters instead attended a city meeting on police policy changes.