A US District Judge ruled on Wednesday that the NYPD will face a lawsuit over its of sound cannons in a 2014 protest.
In his midweek decision, Judge Robert Sweet said in Manhattan that that people who claimed to ‘suffer hearing loss, migraines, ringing in the ears and other injuries’ during protests over the death of an unarmed black ‘could seek damages.’ The NYPD had moved to dismiss the lawsuit.
According to Reuters, the plaintiffs include photojournalists, activists, a photographer, and a graduate student, all of whom were attending a protest over the July 2014 death of Eric Garner.
Garner, who was suspected of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, was accosted by a white police officer after denying the accusations against him. Saying he didn’t have any contraband, law enforcement opted to arrest him rather than simply leave him be.
After Garner pulled his wrist away from an officer, he was placed in a chokehold and slammed to the ground.
Although Garner vocally protested and said he was short of breath and couldn’t breathe, the policeman persisted until Garner lost consciousness. Paramedics who arrived at the scene declined to perform CPR since he was breathing.
While the death was ruled a homicide by a coroner, a grand jury refused to indict the police officer responsible for Garner’s death, which took place in the New York City borough of Staten Island.
The protests were a response to the jury’s decision.
The NYPD largely managed to keep the occasionally unruly protesters in check.
Every so often, a rock or glass bottle was hurled in the direction of NYPD riot officers, who responded by using sound cannons – crowd control weapons developed by the military which the department had possessed for a decade before deploying.
Capable of emitting sounds that can top 120 decibels, the sound cannons – known as “Long Range Acoustic Devices,” or LRADs – were fired up with protesters only ten feet away.
U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet wrote in his Wednesday judgment, “The protest involved large numbers of people and so it is understandable that the officers would want to increase the volume of their message to reach the largest number.
“However, the allegations and the video make the protest appear broadly in control, even when glass bottles were thrown from the crowd toward the police,” he continued, ultimately concluding it “reasonably plausible” that the use of LRADs wasn’t necessary.
Sweet dismissed ‘claims over alleged free speech violations and illegal seizures,’ as well as claims against former NYPD Commissioner William Bratton.
Sweet is allowing protesters to sue over the use of the LRAD in close quarters as well as the ‘improper training of officers, and for assault and battery.’
The NYPD maintains that they used the LRAD appropriately, referring to it as an “effective and safe communication tool.”