ACLU Sues City of St. Louis for Police Misconduct

By MCNS Staff

Police advancing on protesters during demonstrations Sunday night, September 17.

Police advancing on protesters during demonstrations Sunday night, September 17.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed suit against the city of St. Louis for “unlawful and unconstitutional” treatment of protesters opposing the recent acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley.

The lawsuit was announced in a press release on the ACLU’s website and focuses on what it calls police misconduct using chemical weapons, interfering with videoing of police activity and violating due process during demonstrations Sunday night in which 123 were arrested. Those persons arrested include an undercover policeman infiltrating the demonstrations and members of the media, who were corralled in the fray and detained.

The ACLU press release recounts that protestors and bystanders had chemical weapons used against them without proper protocol. It says police also interfered with people recording police activities in photos and on video. On Sunday, the release states, police in riot gear “unlawfully detained people – violating their due process rights – when St. Louis Police used a tactic called ‘kettling’ during a protest downtown.”

The lawsuit says, “Without further instruction or warning… police officers surrounded protestors, observers, and members of the press, cutting off all routes of egress — including via any sidewalk — and prohibiting the people trapped inside from leaving.”

Police officers then used chemical agents without warning on those caught in the area.

Officers removed the goggles some people were wearing and “then sprayed those individuals directly in the face,” the suit states.

The lawsuit also states police have ordered people to delete photos and videos from their phones and cameras.

Plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are Maleeha Ahmad and Alison Dreith, both residents of St. Louis.

The plaintiffs are arguing for a court order requiring that protesters disperse “in a constitutional manner” and that the city follow the Constitution in how police act at protests.

“I think everyone deserves the same rights as I do. I just want peace and justice,” said plaintiff Maleeha Ahmad. “If it hadn’t been for my fellow peaceful protestors – strangers who came to my aid – I don’t know how my eyesight would be today.  I would have been left out in the sun, on the ground, with my face burning.”

“St. Louis should be a place where all people feel safe against retaliation from law enforcement, and all should receive due process. We should strive to be a place where every citizen feels supported by the communities we call home. This is the vision that drives us into the streets and inspires us to hold our leaders accountable when they betray our values,” said plaintiff Alison Dreith.

Both plaintiffs state that they were pepper sprayed by police without warning on September 15.

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