BATON ROUGE, La. — Settlement talks that one attorney described as “fruitful” could resolve a lawsuit Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson and others filed against the city of Baton Rouge over their arrests during protests of a deadly police shooting.
A court order says attorneys met with a federal magistrate judge Friday and reached an “agreement in principle to amicably resolve the matter,” but plaintiffs’ attorney Roy Rodney Jr. disputed that characterization of the negotiations. Rodney said “fruitful discussions” with city attorneys have yet to produce a tentative settlement.
“All sides have to go back to their principals, and we’re not there yet,” Rodney said. “The court called it that, but it can’t be an agreement in principle until all parties have been briefed and agree. And that’s not the case yet.”
Mckesson was among nearly 200 protesters arrested after the July 5 death of 37-year-old Alton Sterling, a black man shot during a struggle with two white police officers. The federal class action accuses police of excessive force and violating their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly.
East Baton Rouge Parish, Baton Rouge’s mayor and police chief, the head of the Louisiana State Police and the local sheriff also were named as defendants.
The Aug. 4 lawsuit says police advanced against protesters while wearing military gear and gas masks and brandishing assault weapons alongside armored vehicles. Officers threatened peaceful protesters by pointing their weapons directly at them, the suit says.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has said the officers’ use of riot gear and weaponry was an appropriate response. The governor, a Democrat who comes from a family of sheriffs, also noted that a police officer had teeth knocked out by a rock during the protests.
Rodney, who filed the class action on behalf of Mckesson and two other arrested protesters, said he couldn’t discuss possible settlement terms; Deelee Morris, an attorney for the city, declined to comment Friday.
In her order Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes said she was giving the parties time to finalize a settlement agreement. She scheduled an Oct. 21 telephone call for attorneys to give her an update.
The Justice Department is investigating Sterling’s shooting, which was captured on cellphone video that quickly spread on social media. His death, a day before another fatal police shooting in Minnesota, sparked protests in Baton rouge and beyond.
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 Mckesson is one of roughly 100 arrested protesters who will not be prosecuted by his office for the same charge.
But the lawsuit says 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.