While the ACLU still retains a complaint against the city, both sides came to a “mutual understanding” on several key issues relating to the use of force at Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has announced it will drop injunctive against Fort Wayne, which the organization claims responded to Black Lives Matter protests with excessive and unreasonable force.
According to Fort Wayne NBC, the agreement will end litigation filed shortly after residents took to the street in protest of the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The lawsuit initially alleged that the Fort Wayne Police Department violated the rights of demonstrators, using unnecessary force to disperse protesters. One individual named in the complaint lost an eye after being struck by a non-lethal projectile fired by law enforcement.
Fort Wayne NBC notes that, since the case was introduced in U.S. District Court for the District of Northern Indiana, the American Civil Liberties Union and the City of Fort Wayne held several meetings in the presence of a mediator.
“This was just sort of an understanding with them. So we worked with a neutral party, a mediator to come to an understanding about our policies, and that we have good policies, and that we will continue to respect people’s right to protest peacefully,” Fort Wayne City Attorney Carol Helton told Wane.com.
The mediation sessions, says Fort Wayne NBC, led to both sides finding common ground on a number of issues, including:
- That individuals are permitted to engage in non-violent protests, including in public spaces, and on roads that have been closed in coordination with city departments; and
- That unlawful or violent actions by protesters may result in appropriate, confined law enforcement action; and
- That, if police decide to establish an “emergency incident area,” such an area will be limited in size, and, “absent an emergency […] [police] will make reasonable attempts to notify persons within the area to leave and the routes they should take”; and
- That “the use of any chemical agent … [constitutes] a use of force, and that its use must be reasonable”; and
- That, “consistent with existing polices, [the Fort Wayne Police Department] will not fire impact munitions indiscriminately into crowds.”
Ken Falk, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Indiana, said that his organization and Fort Wayne continue to have disagreements as to which standards should determine when force can be used against demonstrators.
Furthermore, both sides have specified that, in spite of the agreement, the City of Fort Wayne, its police department, and individual officers have not admitted to any wrongdoing.
“There’s been no admission from the city that they did anything wrong, nor did we want admission at this point,” Falk said. “What we want at this point is to set it in place a framework so this does not happen again and as I said, I applaud the city in recognizing that we can go beyond finger-pointing and try and erect a structure that will prevent this from happening again.”