CITY OF PHOENIX SUED OVER 2020 PROTEST

Introduction: a recent class-action lawsuit against the city of Phoenix is now before the U.S District Court. Read how this case started over the Black Lives Matter protests.

Note: this article is not legal advice, just general information.

THE MAY 30, 2020 PROTEST

 

On May 30, 2020, hundreds of protestors in Arizona gathered in downtown Phoenix to protest the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. This was the third night of protests, gathered directly outside of Phoenix Police Department’s headquarters and at the State Capitol. The protests were peaceful, with people marching along the streets, holding signs and chanting. Group leaders and speakers encouraged this peacefulness.

However, around 10:20, police declared the gathering as an “unlawful assembly”, and ordered the crowds to disperse. Defiant, hundreds of people disobeyed the order and remained downtown. This collective decision prompted the police to react harshly. Flashbangs, tear gas, and non-lethal rounds were used against the crowd.

Some were injured with rubber bullets, like Darric Newman, who was shot in the knee. Jordan Thomas was shot in the ribs. One tear gas canister struck and injured Anthony Harding.

GOVERNOR DUCEY’S INITIAL RESPONSE

 

Following the protest arrests on May 30th, Governor Ducey released a statement on the arrests with the following:

“One thing is clear: The more aggressive approach downtown was needed, and it worked. Now, more needs to be done, in more places around the state, to protect law and order and public safety,” Ducey’s statement read. “The looting and violence we saw last night, especially in Scottsdale, simply cannot be tolerated. And it won’t be. Destruction of property does not qualify as freedom of expression.”

THE CRIMINAL CASES CONNECTED TO THE ARRESTS

 

In total, 124 people were arrested for felony rioting charges. However, the presiding judges in these cases dismissed all charges for lack of evidence to support probable cause. Specifically, the judges threw out the cases after finding no credibility in the arrests since the probable cause statements had been “copied and pasted” for all 124 arrests.

THE CURRENT FEDERAL LAWSUIT

 

Among the 124 arrested, 23 have recently filed a single class-action lawsuit against the City of Phoenix, including Police Chief Jeri Williams. The federal lawsuit also includes Sergeant Douglas McBride and Commander Dennis Orender, who, according to the lawsuit’s complaint, conspired to “mass arrest” 124 of the protesters, and to use a manufactured, “cut-and-paste probable cause statement to support false felony charges.”

“Rather than permitting the protestors to disperse, they chased them down,” the complaint alleges. “They arrested anyone who was on the street or in vehicles, whether they had attended a protest or not. To support these mass arrests and cause individuals to be booked into jail, PPD officers used identical, and illegal, cut-and-paste probable cause statements.”

Among other things, the lawsuit claims gross negligence, indiscriminate use of force, and violations of First and Fourth Amendment rights after police arrested people without cause.

According to the complaint, the police used “indiscriminate deployments of tear gas, pepper spray, pepper balls, rubber-coated bullets, and beanbag rounds into a crowd of hundreds of non-violent protesters.”

“Rather than permitting the protestors to disperse, they chased them down,” the complaint alleges. “They arrested anyone who was on the street or in vehicles, whether they had attended a protest or not. To support these mass arrests and cause individuals to be booked into jail, PPD officers used identical, and illegal, cut-and-paste probable cause statements.”

The lawsuit further seeks a permanent injunction to prohibit police from using chemical and kinetic weapons and methods of crowd-control at protests, and wants the court to order the city to change its policies to ensure police “do not continue to engage in unconstitutional conducts in the future.”

What’s interesting about this lawsuit is the history of the force, used by the police from 2010 to 2020. This history recantation includes the use of pepper bullets, tear gas, and other “projectiles,” claiming these actions abused and infringed on people’s First Amendment rights.

AN ASSESSMENT OF POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

 

Dan Wilson, Phoenix City’s Spokesman, said that Phoenix has hired a consultant company, 21CP Solutions, to examine Phoenix Police Department’s “policies and procedures related to public demonstrations” Wilson also stated, “The City is committed to the safety, security and constitutionally protected rights of all its residents and visitors,” Wilson said. “The City is reviewing the allegations in detail and will file an appropriate response pursuant to the Rules of Civil Procedure which govern all federal civil lawsuits.”

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

With the current state of policing, it is no secret: every police action is scrutinized and watched. While officers have a very important job to do every day, they also need to be held accountable, especially in extremely tense situations like this one.

Thus, whether you are a protestor, on-looker, or officer, the message is the same: stay aware, and keep the situation from growing more intense. Diffusing the issue should be the goal.

If you or your loved one faces criminal charges, please reach out. Visit Chuck Franklin Law.com for more. We handle these cases regularly and have vast knowledge in the area.

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