The New Black Panther Party is calling for a “National Day of Action for Alton Sterling” Saturday in response to the U.S. Justice Department’s decision not to prosecute the Baton Rouge Police officers involved in the July 2016 shooting death of Sterling.
In posts on its Facebook page, the organization says the demonstration will be held outside Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters at 9000 Airline Drive. One post says the demonstration will begin at noon. Another gives the time as 2 p.m. It says the dress code is “ALL BLACK. Black Power!!” It does not detail what kind of “action” is planned.
Baton Rouge Police Department officials say they are aware of the planned demonstration, which appears to have attracted limited engagement on social media so far. Only 18 people have said they will attend and another 50 or so indicated an interest, according to the Facebook post.
BRPD spokesman Sgt. Don Coppola says the department “recognizes the right to peacefully assembly but that to aid in that freedom,” participants will not be able to block the roadway, use sound amplification devices, wear masks or bandanas that cover their faces, damage property or “act violently toward persons or law enforcement.”
Law enforcement officers were criticized last summer for escalating tensions with protesters in the wake of Sterling’s shooting by wearing riot gear. Asked this morning if BRPD officers plan to again don the protective gear, Coppola says, “The protesters will dictate if the mobile field force is deployed. If the rules are followed, they will never see our mobile field force unit.”’
The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s communications office did not respond to requests seeking comment about plans for the weekend protest.
Earlier this week, Broome encouraged peaceful, nonviolent protests and so far demonstrations have been relatively small and without incident. Thursday night, several dozen protesters showed up outside BRPD headquarters. Smaller demonstrations were held Tuesday and Wednesday nights.