BATON ROUGE – Baton Rouge residents gathered Saturday afternoon to form the newest chapter of the New Black Panther Party.
The New Black Panthers arrived in Baton Rouge last Saturday to protest the officer-involved shooting death of 37-year-old Alton Sterling. Two videos of the shooting sparked national outcry and protests across Baton Rouge.
Jerald Justice said the group was approached by local residents like Edwin Smith to help establish a Baton Rouge chapter.
“It is time for new leadership and a new organization to step forward in Baton Rouge,” Smith said. “I feel like the New Black Panther Party is the organization that can bring new leadership to Baton Rouge.”
Founders met Saturday to formally establish the chapter as well as gather names for new members. WBRZ News 2’s Earl Phelps was able to briefly attend the event on the condition that he does not reveal the meeting’s location.
“With the help of the New Black Panther Party, these members should be able to handle any or everything in their city,” Justice said.
Over the course of five days, authorities arrested 185 protesters in Baton Rouge. Friday, District Attorney Hillar Moore said that his office will not prosecute 100 protesters who were only charged with misdemeanor crimes.
Justice said that the Black Panthers were involved in the protests, but none of their members were arrested or were carrying guns during the demonstrations.
“Not one official member arrested. Not one official member hurt,” Justice said. “Every member went home.”
Lafayette is the only other city in Louisiana with an active New Black Panthers’ chapter. Justice says that there was also a New Orleans chapter, but it is not active now.