If you believe a lawsuit recently filed against Seattle and its police department, the city’s officers are using teargas, “blast balls” and deploying “projectiles” against completely peaceful protestors, who are in some cases merely trying to flee the excessive display of force. The Seattle Police Department (SPD) is forcing these supposedly peaceful protestors to head to the local army/navy surplus store to purchase $400-$500 worth of protective gear so they can continue their law-abiding First Amendment behavior.
That, say the peaceful protestors, is allowing only the well-heeled among them to exercise their free speech rights, which allegedly violates the First Amendment.
On the day in question, July 25, 5000 protestors took to the streets in support of Black Lives Matter and to “demand an end to police brutality.” By the time they were done, 59 police officers were treated for injuries from rocks and bottles and other projectiles hurled at them under the guise of free speech. Rioters blew a hole in a police precinct building and looted, vandalized and destroyed numerous businesses in the area. Forty-seven arrests were made.
Here’s the perspective of the five “protestors” who brought the lawsuit. In the legal papers they filed in a federal district court, they allege:
“Washingtonians are trying to exercise their right to protest in the streets of Seattle to demand an end to police brutality. But the Seattle Police Department, omnipresent at each protest, wields power and pain on the streets by indiscriminately shooting toxic substances in the air, deploying projectiles at departing protesters, and tossing blast balls into close areas of protesters marching. These tactics make safe protest prohibitive: one needs an exceptional amount of protective gear to enjoy that freedom.
“Petitioners Jessica Benton, Shelby Bryant, Anne Marie Cavanaugh, Alyssa Garrison, and Clare Thomas are individuals who were subjected to the unmitigated violence of the Seattle Police Department on July 25, 2020, while exercising their 1st Amendment rights to protest in support of these community demands on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Seattle.”
The “sunny Saturday afternoon” phrase is a nice touch. But here’s the gist of their complaint:
“Because protestors now must purchase expensive equipment to be assured that they will be able to protest safely, the indiscriminate use of weapons by SPD implicates equal protection.”
These “peaceful protestors” don’t like having to buy their own riot gear. Next, they’ll be asking the court to order the city to furnish them with Molotov cocktails.
The lawsuit requests “An order temporarily restraining the City and all agencies under its direction and from which it has requested assistance with regard to the protests from further violating the First and Fourth Amendment rights of Plaintiffs by ordering cessation in use and possession of 40 mm launchers, blast balls, CS gas, and oleoresin capsicum (‘OC’) spray.”
This lawsuit overlaps with another case currently being heard concerning the Seattle City Council’s action with regard to police department policies, and even the U.S. Department of Justice is involved in that one.
Seattle is enduring strange times, and this lawsuit is another indication that sanity won’t be returning any time soon.
Photo from VDB Photos / Shutterstock.com
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