Dig Baton Rouge

Lawsuit claims Metro Council stifled black leaders’ voices

A lawsuit claims Metro Council members violated the First Amendment rights of black community leaders by removing them from a council meeting after they tried to talk about a black man’s shooting death at the hands of white police officers.

The plaintiffs said Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wilson and the Metro Council ordered several people removed from the May 10 council meeting for going off-topic when they began making comments about Alton Sterling, who was shot and killed outside a convenience store by Baton Rouge Police in July 2016.

Gary Chambers, Mike McClanahan and Eugene Collins, who were among the six people removed from the meeting, filed the suit Monday in U. S. District Court. Police arrested Chambers and charged him with disturbing the peace and resisting arrest after removing him from the meeting, and his case is still pending in court according to the Washington Post.

Chambers claims in the suit that the EBR Metro Council has record of suppressing “black voices” while allowing others to speak about off-topic items in meetings without reprisal. No damages are being sought, but the suit asks that the courts find Wilson violated the First Amendment with his actions in the hopes that he will be replaced on the council according to the Advocate.

The Justice Department did not press federal charges against the two officers who were in the altercation with Sterling when he was shot. State officials are still deciding whether to file charges in Louisiana.

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