Peaceful Protest in Baton Rouge

BlairImani-arrest

BATON ROUGE - It has felt like one very long day since I was arrested at a peaceful protest on July 10, 2016. My heart is broken, my body is sore, and I feel as though I am perpetually on the verge of tears. Many have asked how Sunday's events escalated to mass arrests and violence on the part of police. Here is my story.

While attending Louisiana State University I spent my time organizing around a myriad of causes; LGBTQ rights, racial equity, domestic violence, and reproductive health. When I started attending LSU in August 2012, I felt compelled to make the entire Baton Rouge community acutely aware of the injustice happening their back yard.

When I saw the video of Mr. Alton Sterling my passion for the Baton Rouge community was revitalized. 32 participants and I hammered out a game plan on a Google Hangout less than 2 hours after I saw the horrific video. Our plan included a vigil at the Triple S Mart where Mr. Sterling was killed, a sign making and information meeting hosted at the LSU African-American Cultural Center, and a youth led march to the State Capitol Building.

Picking up trash at Triple S. Photo credit ???

Picking up trash at Triple S. Photo credit ???

I could not sit idly by while a community I once called home suffered, so I returned to Baton Rouge.

Saturday:

  • I flew into the Baton Rouge airport on Saturday morning and headed to the National Lawyer's Guild's training for legal observers.

  • I enjoyed lunch at a Black-owned restaurant with my former LSU colleagues.
  • I connected with Sellassie, a fellow activist living in the Bay Area of California.
  • I picked up trash at Triple S Mart.

Sunday:

  • I arrived in Baton Rouge at 3:00 PM at the Wesley United Methodist Church's parking lot. 
  • I met with reporters and touched base with my fellow organizers as we waited for the youth led group called The Wave to arrive. 

What followed was nothing short of a textbook definition of a peaceful and lawful protest. The Wave's founders and members spoke, recited prayer, and offered a list of demands to the elected officials who were present. The event concluded shortly thereafter and folks returned to Wesley UMC waiting for the next steps.

Protestors march on sidewalks down Government Street. Photo courtesy of George Castillo.

Protestors march on sidewalks down Government Street. Photo courtesy of George Castillo.

  • I and several others who participated in the march, walked on the sidewalk of Government Street in Beauregard Town, Baton Rouge.
  • At the intersection of Government and East, officers met protestors with several squad cars and weapons. After a brief discussion, the crowd began to head down East where we gathered on France Street, waiting for the next steps once again. 
  • By the time we had decided to head toward LSU we were flanked on all sides by squad cars and police officers. 

  The following video shows the scene when S.W.A.T. officers arrived:

My partner Akeem Muhammad and I stood on private property, holding signs, and trying to make sure the protestors were complying to the orders of S.W.A.T. officers.

About ten minutes before I was brutalized, trampled, and arrested I took a moment to pray. A young woman named Britt (@_tresjoliebelle on Twitter) wrote me the following poem after seeing the photo of me praying.

As I was dragged into the street an officer muttered "Really give it to her," to one of his peers. I feared for my life and I began screaming. 

I was arrested and detained in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison for over 15 hours. I was never read my Miranda Rights.

I am so moved by everyone who has supported me in my activist endeavors. Each time I start reading the heartfelt messages, comments, tweets, etc. I am overcome by an intense feeling of love and community. I am still decompressing from Sunday's events but I am so grateful for each and everyone of you who spared a thought or took the time to reach out to me and my family.
If nothing else, it is important to remember we (200+ peaceful protestors) were arrested for the Black Baton Rouge community.

We live in a system that does not value the lives of so many. Your support reminds the world that the lives of Alton Sterling, Keyonna Blakeney, Philando Castile, and Deeniquia Dodds matter.

#BLACKLIVESMATTER

Blair Imani

Blair Imani engages with a variety of issues affecting Black, Muslim, and femme communities. Imani is the Executive Director of Equality for HER, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness for issues affecting the global femme community. Blair is a Press Officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She has previously worked with the Women’s Information Network, Equality Louisiana, Louisiana Progress, StuffSheLikes.com, Beautiful in Every Shade, and Baton Rouge Organizing.