Community leaders to extend and expand economic boycott in wake of Alton Sterling’s death

    An economic boycott to compel the Baton Rouge Area Chamber to pressure local authorities to arrest and prosecute two police officers implicated in the fatal shooting of 37-year-old Alton Sterling will be continued and expanded to include more businesses, the head of the Louisiana chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference says.

    Details of the boycott’s extension will be released Tuesday morning via the organization’s and the local NAACP’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, says The Rev. Reginald Pitcher, who leads the local chapter of the SCLC.

    He adds that BRAC, which is believed to wield considerable influence in Baton Rouge, has the ability to pressure other public officials to act.

    Last week, Pitcher and a group of black leaders called for a “three-day selective buying campaign” at the Mall of Louisiana, Cortana Mall and all local Walmarts beginning Friday and continuing throughout the weekend. The objective of the boycott was for residents, angered by Sterling’s death, to withdraw economically and cause the city-parish to lose out on tax dollars it would have received.

    “If you put economic pressure on them, the political pressure will come,” says Mike McClanahan, president of the Baton Rouge chapter of the NAACP. He says the NAACP agrees with the decision to continue the economic boycott.

    While Pitcher did not expect 100% participation, he calls the weekend boycott a success and estimates that it resulted in a 20-30% decrease in the number of shoppers at the targeted establishments. Daily Report could not independently verify his estimate before this afternoon’s deadline.

    Pitcher says monitors visited the locations and compared the weekend shoppers to previous weekends.

    Calls to Jacob Wilson, the Mall of Louisiana’s general manager, and to Moonbeam Capital Investment LLC, which owns and operates Cortana Mall, were not returned.

    BRAC spokeswoman Ansley Zehnder tells Daily Report the chamber has not heard from any of its members about being adversely impacted by the boycott, and doesn’t believe Pitcher has reached out to anyone at BRAC. 

    “As we said on Friday, if the goal is to bring about justice, we echo the governor’s sentiments —and the faith community’s—about the need for patience as the U.S. Attorney’s office conducts its investigation,” Zehnder says. “BRAC stands in support of efforts/activities to build up our community.”

    Pitcher, meanwhile, says he has yet to hear from BRAC.

    The boycott was not done in retaliation, but rather as an avenue to secure justice for Sterling, he says.

    The feeling is that justice will not be found through the judicial system. Charges were never issued in other notable cases of injustice and indictments were never handed downed, he says.

    Pitcher also notes that the two Baton Rouge police officers implicated in the shooting—Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II—are on paid administrative leave and have yet to be arrested.

    He says the handling of Sterling’s death, which was captured via two separate cellphone videos, is in contrast to the arrest of two Marksville, Louisiana, deputy marshals approximately three days after a 6-year-old boy was shot and killed when officers fired upon his father.

    “We’re not getting justice through the judicial system,” Pitcher says. “We want those two police officers arrested, and we want them tried.”

    —Alexandria Burris

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