Community Attendance at Department of Justice Town Hall Tomorrow Critical in Light of Ruling
NEW ORLEANS – In an unfortunate decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Louisiana State Police (LSP) should not be held liable for failing to protect peaceful protesters at the June 3, 2020 George Floyd rally in New Orleans. State Police Chief Colonel Lamar Davis shook off the allegations, claiming that LSP is absolutely immune from such lawsuits and any accountability for his officers’ failure to intervene to prevent the violence perpetrated by police that day.
“All is not lost,” said Nora Ahmed, ACLU of Louisiana legal director. “While this is a textbook response from the Louisiana State Police — an agency notorious for acting as if they are above the law — this is the very reason we called on the Department of Justice to intervene. This ruling from the Fifth Circuit is the precise case to which we alerted the Department in our letter explaining why LSP, which hides behind the dubious legal shield of immunity at every turn, needs to be held to account through a federal pattern or practice investigation. The Department responded, launching its investigation on June 9, 2022.”
The ACLU of Louisiana and a trial court team from Nelson Mullins represent Remingtyn Williams, Lauren Chustz, Bilal Ali-Bey, and a putative class of individuals who were peacefully protesting the murder of George Floyd. On June 3, 2020, as these individuals lawfully exercised their First Amendment rights — horrified by the police brutality leveraged against Mr. Floyd — they, too, were met with brutality. Law enforcement officers violently attacked them with batons, sprayed them with rubber bullets, and deployed tear gas. LSP troopers stood by and watched, actively choosing not to intervene in the merciless and unlawful attack.
The plaintiffs, the trial court team, and the ACLU were initially successful in beating back LSP’s desire to escape accountability. But in response to their trial court victory, Colonel Lamar Davis further obliterated the trust between the State Police and their constituents. Seeking to overturn the lower court ruling, Davis told the people of Louisiana that his force will not succumb to scrutiny for the actions that transpired on June 3. The Fifth Circuit unfortunately reached the wrong decision, including prematurely and incorrectly ruling that the protest was unlawful, but the trial court case against the New Orleans Police Department and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's office continues.
“We will continue to press on with the trial court case to vindicate our clients and the putative classes’ rights,” said Jahmy Graham, lead trial counsel from Nelson Mullins. “As to the Louisiana State Police, the team is currently evaluating further appellate options in light of the Fifth Circuit’s ruling.”
The Louisiana State Police — an agency largely charged with investigating police killings by other police departments across the state — are currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ will host a town hall event in Lafayette on Tuesday, January 24, where community members are encouraged to attend and share testimonials about LSP misconduct. The invitation for the upcoming event specifies that they are examining allegations “of use of excessive force by LSP Troopers” and “of discriminatory policing by LSP, including on the basis of race.”
The ACLU of Louisiana asks all Louisianans affected by policing to step forward at the DOJ’s event and tell your stories.
WHAT: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE TOWN HALL
WHEN: January 24th, 2023, 7:00 PM CDT
WHERE: The Downtown Convention Center, Lafayette, LA
Learn more about the investigation, and how to submit a complaint against LSP, by visiting laaclu.org/doj-investigation.