One protester said police gathered a group of protesters 15 minutes before a temporary curfew started, refused to let them go, and then arrested them all for staying out late.
Civil rights activists have filed a lawsuit against New York City on behalf of protesters who claim they were assaulted or otherwise ill-treated in protests against Black Lives Matter.
According to The Associated Press, the complaint was filed in federal court on Monday. The lawsuit accuses New York and city officials of doing little to curb police brutality during the protests.
The complaint was filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Legal Aid Society.
Together, the two groups are demanding monetary damages for at least 11 Black Lives Matter protesters and law enforcement reform. The plaintiffs are both demanding that New York police officers receive additional training, as well as promises to promptly discipline law enforcement officers who violate protesters’ rights.
In addition, NYCLU and the Legal Aid Society want a judge to officially condemn the NYPD’s actions as unconstitutional.
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said it was imperative that city police immediately reconsider their approach to protests – in large part because the city is expected to riot after the general election next week.
“It is imperative that the police force is fully retrained that they must respect the right to protest and that their response to protest cannot be violent, non-abusive and that they must protect the rights of all,” Lieberman said in a statement.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, named in the lawsuit as a defendant, has expressed some skepticism about the documents and complaints set out therein.
NYPD. Image courtesy of nickallen / Flickr. (CCA-BY-2.0).
“From what I’ve heard of the lawsuit’s allegations, it doesn’t sound right to me at all,” said de Blasio earlier this week. “For seven years there has been a conscious effort to change the relationship between the NYPD and the churches.”
However, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has already asked Attorney General Letitia James to open an investigation into the police reaction to the Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protests.
In a preliminary report released in July, James said her office had received more than 1,300 reports from protesters, most of whom accused the New York City Police Department of excessive violence, such as “indiscriminate use of pepper spray, swinging of firearms on protesters and push vehicles or bicycles into protesters. “
And law enforcement agencies, according to plaintiffs, routinely use similarly aggressive and potentially dangerous crowd and riot control techniques, including the careless use of pepper spray, mass arrests and “kettling”.
“Kettling” refers to a controversial containment method in which police officers cordon demonstrators into small areas before making arrests. The technique has been criticized by human rights activists because officials forming a human wall and driver protesters run the risk of corrupting innocent bystanders and passers-by.
Andom Ghebreghiorgis, a protester and former New York congressional candidate, told The Intercept that after the curfew, police officers used “kettles” to keep demonstrators on the street – and then arrest and cite them for violating them.
“We were kettled before 8 p.m. and they purposely held us so that we could be outside after the curfew,” said Ghebreghiorgis. “When the police started moving through the cauldron, they pushed us from the front and back, essentially trampling on top of each other, trying to escape the violence of the police on the front and backline […] It was really scary – all you heard was screaming and crying during the whole ordeal. “
Some protesters suggested that the police target certain groups of protesters in order to punish them for using slogans and rhetoric against the police.
Other complaints, The Associated Press added, related to detention practices such as the use of “extremely tight zip ties”, the placement of transgender people in “abused” cells, and the cramping of detainees in small units designed for far fewer people.
The AP and NYCLU both note that while Mayor de Blasio insisted police officers do little wrong, many have been taped to violate protesters’ rights. Yet few officials had any consequences for the wrongdoing.
“It’s time,” said Lieberman, “for the police to stop acting like cops are incorrigible children and they have no control over them.”
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