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Peaceful George Floyd protests marred by bursts of violence
Many protests around the nation Sunday were peaceful, but there were also pockets of arson, vandalism and looting.
CHICAGO – Police officers used “brutal, violent and unconstitutional tactics” to quell protests over the killings of Black Americans last summer, with victims claiming they were beaten with batons and sprayed with chemicals, a federal lawsuit filed Thursday alleges.
Civil rights attorneys with law clinics at Northwestern University and others filed the 203-page suit on behalf of 60 people who joined protests to bring national attention to the cases of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Jacob Blake and others.
“These 60 plaintiffs are multiracial, multigenerational and come from all walks of life. They all participated in various demonstrations throughout the city in the summer of 2020,” attorney Vanessa del Valle said in a virtual press conference Thursday.
The 17-count suit alleges violations of protesters’ First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and more. It names Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown, along with 20 officers.
“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.
Officers also targeted protesters’ property – destroying cameras, phones, and eyeglasses and confiscating bikes, backpacks, and other belongings, the suit alleges. Officers “regularly called protesters vile and vulgar names, often using misogynistic and homophobic words” and “often affirmatively escalated encounters through taunts, shoves, pushes, and other inappropriate behavior at these protests,” the suit says.
Chicago’s law department whose spokeswoman, Kathleen Fieweger, said the city had not yet been served with the suit.
“It is important to remember that these are allegations at this stage and not proof. We will review the complaint thoroughly, and each allegation it contains, once we have been served and respond through the courts as appropriate,” she said in a statement.
One of the plaintiffs named in the suit, 18-year-old Miracle Boyd, had attended a “Black, Indigenous Solidarity Rally” in Grant Park on July 17. After the event, Boyd and hundreds of others walked toward a nearby Columbus statue, where they faced off with dozens of Chicago police officers in an encounter that turned violent.
Protesters clash with police: Violent encounter at Chicago’s Columbus statue; 12 arrested, many injured
As hundreds of protesters marched toward the statue, dozens of people wearing black and carrying black umbrellas began launching frozen water bottles, fireworks and other projectiles at police guarding the statue, who hit protesters with their batons, according to police. At least 49 officers were injured, and some were treated on the scene by paramedics while others were transported to the hospital. Photos and videos of the incident shared to social media showed protesters bleeding.
Amid the encounter, one officer punched Boyd, knocking out one of her teeth and bloodying her face. She later had to get root canals on both teeth, received a veneer to replace the lost tooth and continues to experience pain in her right front tooth due to nerve damage, according to the suit.
“The officer who punched me needs to be held accountable for his actions,” Boyd said in the press conference Thursday.
Superintendent Brown later defended the actions of his officers, saying that the peaceful demonstration had been “hijacked by organized mobs.”
It wasn’t the only protest where Chicagoans reported excessive use of force. Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the agency that investigates police misconduct, received 520 protest-related complaints between May 29 and the end of October, according to the agency’s website. Since then, eight officers have been relieved of police powers, and 170 investigations are ongoing.
In the virtual press conference Thursday, Damon Williams, 27, one of the protesters named in the suit, said the filing of the suit marked “a really important day.”
“This suit and this summer and this year has been a time of historical accountability, and this suit is the continuance of us documenting harm,” he said.
Source: USA Today