More than a dozen protesters locked up in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison after Alton Sterling’s police shooting death recalled their hours behind bars as humiliating and said they were treated “like animals,” according to a report.
Riot cops rounded up about 180 protesters while dodging tossed rocks and unleashing flash grenades and smoke bombs. Most of the detainees were slapped with misdemeanor charges for blocking traffic after the July 2016 killing.
New Orleans-based nonprofit The Promise of Justice Initiative claims detainees were packed into cells “caked with grime and blood,” according to the Advocate newspaper, citing the group’s report. The document is slated for release Monday.
Guards used pepper spray liberally in the chaotic lockup, forcing prisoners and even jailhouse staff to put up with the obnoxious chemical. But the guards could step outside for fresh air, the report claims.
The assessment is based on interviews with at least a dozen people cuffed while protesting Sterling’s death at the hands of police outside an East Baton Rouge convenience store. The shooting sparked days of mostly peaceful protests in the Louisiana city as demonstrators decried police brutality.
The report alleges guards at the prison facility were “openly racist” and denied locked up protesters phone calls and “basic supplies, including tampons, soap, running water and toothbrushes.”
One guard was heard referring to one inmate unit as a “slave plantation,” according to the Advocate.
The prison’s warden, Dennis Grimes, defended his guards in the paper’s report and said the “claims of the protesters are without merit.”
Prosecutors dropped charges against most of the protesters in the weeks that followed but a legal battle continues between Black Lives Matter activists and Louisiana police officers.
One cop lodged a federal complaint against Deray McKesson, a high-profile activist arrested during the Baton Rouge unrest. Last year, he accused McKesson of “inciting violence” during the demonstrations. Another officer sued McKesson and four other BLM activists on the one-year anniversary of a deadly ambush that left five cops dead in Dallas.
The suit filed in the U.S. District Court of Louisiana on Friday accused McKesson and others of also inciting violence.