DeRay Mckesson Will Not Be Charged for Protesting in Baton Rouge, DA Says
Almost 200 people were arrested during demonstrations in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, following Alton Sterling's death at the hands of police. Some 100 of those people will not be prosecuted, among them leading Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson.
In a statement, District Attorney Hillar C. Moore III announced that he would not be pursuing charges against those brought in on misdemeanor crimes of roadway obstruction.
"While all citizens have the right to assemble and protest, they do not have the right to block streets and impede the flow of traffic. Under Louisiana law, first-time offenders, should they avoid further arrests and convictions, may have their misdemeanor arrests expunged from the criminal history records of the State of Louisiana at no cost."
Along with 184 others, Mckesson was taken into custody during a peaceful protest outside police headquarters on July 9, on the grounds that he was blocking the road. He was held overnight in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison and released the next day. Mckesson streamed his arrest on Periscope, and in a text exchange with Mic beforehand, he said that police had escalated things Saturday night.
"The police did this," he wrote. "The police provoked protesters tonight."
The demonstrations were convened to protest the shooting of Sterling by police officers in Baton Rouge on July 5. The next day, an officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, shot and killed Philando Castille during a traffic stop. Castile's fiance, Diamond Reynolds, caught the whole thing on video; the tandem shootings prompted Black Lives Matter protests nationwide, which resulted in hundreds of arrests.
"When I think about protests, I think of it as this idea of telling the truth in public," Mckesson said on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert Friday. "And what's powerful is that these conversations, I hope, are leading to better conversations about solutions.
"So when you think about the protests in Baton Rouge," he added, "I didn't plan to get arrested, but so many people got arrested that really brought attention to the crisis with the Baton Rouge Police Department." But, he noted, Sterling and Castile should still be alive.
"We can accept that policing is hard, we can accept that people wanna wake up every day and they wanna go home alive," Mckesson said.
"I've not been a policeman, but I have expectations that they don't kill people as a condition of their job."