This past weekend witnessed multiple peaceful and determined protests of the people of Baton Rouge who took to the street demanding justice for Alton Sterling who was murdered by racist cops on July 5.
Armored riot police with automatic weapons marched forward with orders to repress any cry for justice by the people, but the people of Baton Rouge and others who came to stand with the community held steadfast, continuing to protest and taking upwards to 200 arrests.
The mood in Baton Rouge can be described as nothing less than electrified with a new sense of unity and determination in the struggle against racist police violence.
Kemi Gilmore was coming from her birthday dinner with her boyfriend Terrell on the night of July 8 when she saw that people were still protesting. The couple immediately parked and joined the protest. When Kemi was grabbed by the police, Terrell stepped in to defend her against the brutal way they were handling her. They were both arrested. Kemi was released more than 24 hours later on bail while Terrell remains in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.
Gloria La Riva, the Party for Socialism and Liberation Presidential candidate, along this reporter, met with Kemi and her mother Yalanda on July 11. Kemi talked about her personal struggle with sickle cell anemia, the mistreatment of protesters held in the parish prison and the new strong connections of solidarity that have emerged over the weekend in Baton Rouge. Kemi told us that violent crime and other crime have plummeted as the protests have begun. She asserted the role of the racist police in causing divisions among the people on a day-to-day basis; now those divisions have all but disappeared.
As cops rolled into the neighborhood during the meeting, a neighbor called Kemi’s mom to warn about the presence of the police in the area. This vigilance is part of the new sense of oneness of the people and their determination to win justice for Alton Sterling and his family. As we left the Gilmore residence other neighbors came out to greet us knowing that Kemi and Gloria had been among the hundreds of people arrested in the protests demanding justice.
Triple S market a monument to struggle against police violence
The Triple S Market on North Foster Drive has become a regional shrine, a monument in the struggle against racist police violence. People from the surrounding the community and all over the region are gathered day and night. Archbishop Joceta Williams, the spiritual guide of the Sterling family and their representative, greets people who come from all over Louisiana to hold a sign against racism, to pray, to chant, to sing about their steadfastness in the struggle and to build connections for the struggle ahead.
The market is a communication center for actions and legal defense. The mood at the market, which was the site of the horrible murder of Alton Sterling, has become a place of strength for those who vow to continue to fight. The sense of sisterhood and brotherhood is eminent as people of all races come together shaking hands with strangers and embracing and thanking each other for their role in this cry for justice.
This mood is duplicated in the muddy parking lot at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. Every couple of hours protesters who were arrested all over the city are being released on bail, largely through the support of over $100,000 that was raised from people all over the country by the efforts of the National Lawyers Guild. People come out with their fists high telling the story of their arrests by the militarized police and mistreatment by guards inside. In a short time one can see neighbors who chanted together who were then arrested by the cops, a carload of young white women who came up from New Orleans to stand with the Black community, activists and concerned citizens who traveled from neighboring states and farther who are all part of this new unity.
The bonds forged in the current struggle for justice for Alton Sterling and all victims of racist police violence can not be broken. A new chapter in the history of this determined struggle is being written. The taste of victory is more more evident in the warm damp summer air of Baton Rouge than ever before.