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Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson sues police for 'militarised and aggressive' behaviour

The activist was one of 200 protesters arrested by officers in Louisiana

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Friday 05 August 2016 12:42 BST
'Justice Must be Served!' Mourners Parade for Police Shooting Victim Alton Sterling

A leading member of the Black Lives Matter movement has sued the city of Baton Rouge - claiming that its police behaved in a “militarised and aggressive manner” when he and others were arrested during a protest.

DeRay Mckesson was among nearly 200 protesters who were arrested in the Louisiana city following the death last month of of 37-year-old Alton Sterling, a black man who was shot during a struggle with two white police officers.

The shooting of the man, whose death was captured on video that was widely distributed, sparked many protests in cities across the country.

The lawsuit accuses the police of militarised behaviour (AP)

The Associated Press said that in a class action lawsuit, Mr Mckesson accused the police of using excessive force and violating the protesters' constitutional rights. It said police advanced on protesters while wearing military gear and gas masks and brandishing assault weapons alongside armoured vehicles. Officers threatened peaceful protesters by pointing their weapons directly at them, the suit said.

“Defendants used excessive force in attacking, battering, beating, and assaulting plaintiffs and class members without provocation or the need for defense,” it added.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has defended the police response to the protests, saying their use of riot gear and weaponry was appropriate. The US Justice Department is investigating Mr Sterling's death.

Mr McKesson was arrested by police in July (AP)

Mr Mckesson, a Baltimore resident, was arrested July 9 near Baton Rouge police headquarters on a charge of obstructing a highway. East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore has said Mr Mckesson was one of roughly 100 arrested protesters who will not be prosecuted by his office for the same charge.

But the lawsuit said Mr Mckesson and other arrested protesters had to pay administrative and court fees to be released from jail and will have to pay more to have their arrest records expunged.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and other groups also filed a lawsuit last month over the treatment of protesters by police.

East Baton Rouge Parish, the mayor, the head of the state police, the city's police chief and the local sheriff are also named as defendants.

State Police Col Mike Edmonson, who had not seen the lawsuit, told the AP he believed police “exercised great restraint” in response to the protests.

“I didn't witness any aggressive form of behavior by any police officer,” he said.

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