Civil rights groups and activists sued Baton Rouge law enforcement agencies over their treatment of protesters rallying against the police shooting death of Alton Sterling, saying officers used excessive force and physically and verbally abused peaceful demonstrators, the AP reports. The lawsuit was announced Wednesday by the ACLU of Louisiana. Authorities arrested about 200 protesters over a three-day period, often taking to the streets in riot gear or riding in military-style vehicles. The governor and the Baton Rouge police chief have defended the response, with the chief saying Tuesday that authorities discovered an alleged plot against police over the weekend. "We have been questioned repeatedly over...why we have the tactics that we have. Well, this is the reason, because we had credible threats against the lives of law enforcement in this city," Police Chief Carl Dabadie said.
The lawsuit blames law enforcement for escalating the situation. "Plaintiffs have engaged in this peaceful speech, association, and protest on the streets, sidewalks, and medians of Baton Rouge," the lawsuit read. "Unfortunately, this exercise of constitutional rights has been met with a military-grade assault on protestors' bodies and rights." In the first few days after Sterling's death, police took a reserved approach to enforcement, keeping a low profile as hundreds gathered outside the convenience store where Sterling died. But protests escalated during the weekend as demonstrations moved away from the store and into other parts of the city, marked by a show of force by law enforcement that included police wielding batons, carrying long guns, and wearing shields.