Activists are taking the city of Detroit to court over the tactics used by the police department in breaking up Black Lives Matter protests in recent months.
The protests in Detroit started after the death of George Floyd. Floyd died while being restrained by several Minneapolis police officers during an arrest.
The protests against police brutality in Detroit have been largely peaceful over the past three months. But there have been violent confrontations between police officers and demonstrators. While some protesters have thrown rocks and bottles, police in riot gear have used more sophisticated tools.
The Detroit police department is investigating roughly two dozen complaints against police officers connected to the department’s response to the police brutality marches.
Attorney Amanda Ghannam says the lawsuit is asking a federal judge to order the police department to stop using excessive violence.
“With the express approval of Mayor (Mike) Duggan and (police) Chief (James) Craig Detroit police officers have brutally beaten, tear gassed, pepper sprayed and arrested hundreds of non-violent demonstrators,” says Ghannam.
The lawsuit is specifically asking a federal judge for:
Plaintiffs seek declaratory relief and immediate temporary and permanent injunctive relief prohibiting Defendants from continuing their patterns and/or practices of perpetrating illegal and unconstitutional violence and unlawful Case 3:20-cv-12363-RHC-APP ECF No. 1 filed 08/31/20 PageID.5 Page 5 of 81 6 arrests against peaceful protesters seeking police accountability and racial justice. The failure to provide such relief will result in these unlawful practices continuing, thereby causing irreparable harm to Plaintiffs, for which no plain, adequate, or complete remedy at law is otherwise available
Similar lawsuits have been filed in other cities
Jae Bass is an organizer of Detroit Will Breathe. He pointedly blames Detroit Police Chief James Craig for the use of violent tactics against demonstrators.
“We need to literally make it illegal for (Detroit Police Chief James) Craig to march down on protesters with armies of hundreds of cops and weapons and military gear when these protesters are unarmed,” says Bass.
An attorney for the city welcomes the lawsuit.
Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia says this will give the city a chance to sue to stop the improper actions of protest organizers.
“There’s a body of work here,” says Garcia, “These nightly protests are meant to stir up or provoke some kind of response from the Detroit police department. And they are putting quite an imposition in the allocation of resources that the city has to make.”
Garcia notes that roughly 200 demonstrators have been arrested on a variety of charges since the protests began.
Garcia expects the city will file its response to the lawsuit in the coming weeks.