Fifty people protesting racism and police brutality in Denver in the wake of George Floyd’s death last year sued the city in federal court, alleging that police officers used tear gas, projectiles and other weapons against them because They performed or watched in peace.
Denver police officers were neither adequately trained nor supervised during the protests, according to the pair of lawsuits filed on Monday. The lawsuits say officers brutally beat protesters and left many plaintiffs afraid of protesting.
Attorney Birk Baumgartner said, “The Denver Police Department’s actions during the George Floyd protests have consequences — this is one of those consequences.” “You can no longer violate the Constitution as a police force and as a city without consequences.”
The two lawsuits, filed together in the US District Court of Colorado on Monday by Baumgartner Law and the Beam & Islay law firm, are the largest against the city in relation to mass protests in May, June and July 2020. After the murder of Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, thousands marched in downtown Denver demanding an end to police brutality and a fundamental change in Denver’s public safety practices.
Neither the Denver police officer nor the city attorney’s office could immediately be reached for comment on Monday evening.
One of the lawsuits filed on Monday represents eight people seriously injured by police and another involving 42 others who were subjected to tear gas and pepper spray during the protests or who were arrested – a few days in jail. was spent in the – but his charges were dropped. Many of the injured suffered bruising or burning in the eyes.
While those injuries may not be catastrophic, it is important to hold the city accountable for those damages and the broader impact it could have on people’s willingness to exercise their constitutional right to demonstrate, attorney Adam Yost said. Many litigants said they are now afraid to protest.
“It’s about a chilling factor that the city can impose on those who choose to use their voice against them,” Yost said.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuits filed on Monday include:
- A girl under 18, who was protesting police brutality with her father in downtown Denver on June 27, 2020, when officers arrested her, interrogated her at a police station without her father and He was then released without charge.
- A woman who was shot in the ankle by the police with a projectile while walking away from them on May 31, 2020
- A woman who was shot by the police with a projectile even as she raised her hand on May 28, 2020
- A woman said she was shot in the back with a tear gas canister on May 31, 2020, as she fled from officers and a cloud of gas deployed by them
- A man working as a volunteer medic during the July 1, 2020 demonstration that an officer hit him in the chest with a baton
- A man who did not join the protest but observed them on May 30, 2020, was shot in the eye with a projectile by an officer on his way home
- A man who was talking to his mother on the phone outside her Capitol Hill apartment on June 1, 2020, when a police officer shot her with a rubber bullet, causing her to fall to the ground and lose her tooth
Many litigants continued to suffer pain from tear gas or pepper spray for several days after the protest. Others said that the trauma of the way police responded to the protests made them fearful to protest in the future.
Dozens of other people injured by police have also filed separate lawsuits, including a class-action suit. Injuries to protesters included blindness and fractures.
The Office of the Independent Monitor – the city’s police and sheriff oversight agency – found that Denver police used excessive force against protesters and failed to keep thorough records, making it difficult to trace which officers were responsible. The inspection agency found that officers used pepper spray and fired pepper balls at people who were “verbally objecting” to the police and not posing any threat.
Of the hundreds of Denver officials who responded to the protests, only two have faced formal discipline for their actions while controlling the crowd.
The lawsuits filed on Monday sought not only money to compensate plaintiffs for their injuries, but also a change in policy. Baumgartner said he wants the US Justice Department to impose a consent decree on the Denver Police Department to oversee the necessary changes.
“Don’t forget what it was about: it was about people in Denver and across the country saying that it’s not okay for police to hurt civilians,” Baumgartner said. “And the Denver Police Department’s response to the protest was to do exactly that.”