Protesters say they were subject to brutal, indiscriminate tactics, including assault and verbal attacks.
Black Lives Matter protesters in Chicago claim they were subjected to “brutal, violent and unconstitutional tactics” by the city’s police force.
According to USA Today, Northwestern University’s law clinic, along with several other firms, filed a 203-page lawsuit on behalf of 60 people who joined summertime protests in Chicago.
The demonstrations—similar to other protests held across the country—arose after the brutal police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25th. Floyd’s death followed a string of other highly publicized incidents of public and institutional discrimination against Black Americans. In several instances, African-Americans were either arrested or killed after being confronted by law enforcement in relatively innocuous contexts.
In Chicago, Black Lives Matter protesters were, on several occasions, confronted by police officers who carried out mass arrests and employed chemical crowd suppressants.
“These 60 plaintiffs are multiracial, multigenerational and come from all walks of life,” attorney Vanessa del Valle said during a Thursday press conference. “They all participated in various demonstrations throughout the city in the summer of 2020.”
The lawsuit, notes USA Today, alleges 17 counts against Chicago and its police department. It alleges, among other things, that law enforcement violated protesters’ First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.
“While the plaintiffs were exercising their First Amendment rights to protest anti-Black police violence, Chicago police officers brutally hit them with batons, including strikes to the head, punched them in the face, tackled them to the ground, kneed and kicked them, dragged them through the streets, used chemical agents on them, and kettled them,” del Valle said.
As LegalReader’s reported before, “kettling” refers to a controversial riot control tactic in which police force demonstrators into a small area, where they may be held, controlled, and arrested.
The lawsuit further claims that officers intentionally destroyed protesters’ personal effects, including cell phones, video cameras, and eyeglasses, while arbitrarily confiscating items such as backpacks and bicycles.
“CPD’s animus against plaintiffs and other protesters is unmistakable,” the lawsuit says. “They regularly called protesters vile and vulgar names, often using misogynistic and homophobic words.”
Kathleen Fieweger, a spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department, said the agency has yet to receive a copy of the suit.
“It is important to remember that these are allegations at this stage and not proof,” she said. “We will review the complaint thoroughly, and each allegation it contains, once we have been served and respond through the courts as appropriate.”
However, Sheila Bedi, a civil rights attorney with Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, said officers’ reacted to Black Lives Matter protesters with the same unbridled aggression they have been using to “brutalize those who speak out for progressive change” for more than 100 years.
“Chicagoans who are part of what has been called the largest social justice movement in the world took to the streets this summer to protest law enforcement brutality, violence, and racism,” Bedi said. “CPD responded with brutality, violence, and racism.”