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Report says those arrested in 2016 Baton Rouge protest mistreated in jail

By Ed Adamczyk
Report says those arrested in 2016 Baton Rouge protest mistreated in jail
Demonstrators hold images of police shooting victims Alton Sterling (R) in Louisiana and Philando Castile, (L) in Minnesota during a demonstration in Los Angeles on July 7, 2016. A report, released Monday by the Promise of Justice Initiative, said about 180 people arrested in a demonstration in Baton Rouge following Sterling's 2016 death were subjected to inhumane conditions while in jail. Photo by Mike Nelson/EPA

July 10 (UPI) -- An activist group's report, published Monday, said protesters arrested after Alton Sterling's 2016 fatal shooting were subjected to humiliating prison conditions.

Sterling, who was African-American, was shot several times on July 5, 2016 at close range by two white Baton Rouge Police Department officers who responded to a report that a man used a gun to threaten a person outside a convenience store. The shooting led to protests in Baton Rouge and a request for a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, which said in 2017 it would not file criminal charges against the police officers.

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Thousands gathered in Baton Rouge following the shooting for a protest. Between 180 and 200 people were arrested. Over two-thirds of those arrested were African-American and 90 percent were charged with the misdemeanor offense of obstruction of a highway, a report by the New Orleans-based Promise of Justice Initiative, released Monday, said.

The 40-page report said those arrested were subject to indiscriminate force while in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, and locked in overcrowded cells "caked with grime and blood." It says arrestees were pepper sprayed by police and subjected to threats of force by police.

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"Those detained for minor infractions were forced to endure threats of brutal force and humiliation," adding that "it might actually be worse for those regularly arrested in East Baton Rouge on minor offenses, unable to make bond, when the whole world is not watching," Erica Navalance, principal author of the report, said.

The report, based on interviews with over a dozen people arrested, alleges that the treatment of the arrestees reflects a systematic oppression on a daily basis of inmates at the prison. It referred to alleged denial of medical treatment of those arrested as an "unconstitutional hardship."

The arrests prompted civil-rights lawsuits and a class-action complaint that resulted in a proposed settlement. Under the terms of the settlement each person arrested would receive between $500 and $1,000 and have the arrest removed from his or her arrest record.

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Jail Warden Dennis Grimes dismissed the report, saying that "The claims of the protesters are without merit. He added that the behavior of prison personnel was "appropriate, professional and well within constitutional standards," and that they "at all times acted appropriately."

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