The crackdown on protesters and the press in the Twin Cities could turn out to be costly.
Blame a continual indiscriminate use of force and an overwhelming amount of indisputable video evidence.
A class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday against the City of Minneapolis and an undefined number of Minneapolis Police Department officers accuses the cops of using a "chemical respiratory irritant" on protesters gathered downtown on May 28.
The civil complaint says Annette Williams, a black woman who was "peacefully protesting police tactics against communities of color," was standing on a sidewalk with her daughter as a caravan of cop cars rolled through. Without warning, one officer decided to demonstrate an upsetting tactic of his own.
The incident was captured by Star Tribune columnist Jennifer Brooks.
Well THAT was uncalled for. pic.twitter.com/Qdu4LyrZ9U— Jennifer Brooks (@stribrooks) May 29, 2020
According to the lawsuit, Williams and other protesters hit by the spray removed facemasks they wore "to protect against the spread of COVID-19," and started to "cough uncontrollably." Since that moment, Williams has experienced "labored breathing and chest pain."
The lawsuit, filed by attorney David Madgett, says such police actions have a "chilling effect, discouraging protesters from exercising their constitutionally protected rights to free speech."
The lawsuit also cites numerous incidents of police working to "corral and concentrate protesters" in one space, then "gassing" them, "shooting them with non-lethal projectiles, and using percussion grenades," which the suit says "has no tactical purpose other than injuring otherwise peaceful protesters."
The suit defines the class as "all peaceful protesters who have been injured" by the actions of MPD officers, a group that counts "hundreds of people."
Read the lawsuit here, via independent journalist Tony Webster.
Earlier Wednesday, the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union announced a class-action lawsuit against Minneapolis (among other state and local defendants) for repeated incidents of police brutality or mistreatment of journalists covering protests.
The lead plaintiff in the case, independent journalist Jared Goyette, was hit in the face with a less-lethal projectile while reporting on a demonstration. Goyette is one of several members of the media to sustain injuries at the hands of law enforcement, including photographer Linda Tirado, who was hit with a tracer round and will be permanently blind in one eye.
Hey folks, took a tracer found to the face (I think, given my backpack) and am headed into surgery to see if we can save my left eye— Linda Tirado (@KillerMartinis) May 30, 2020
Am wisely not gonna be on Twitter while I’m on morphine
Stay safe folks pic.twitter.com/apZOyGrcBO
an update: I am permanently blind in my left eye, and the docs absolutely refuse to let me go back to work for they say six weeks. I’m definitely not allowed to be near smoke or gas.— Linda Tirado (@KillerMartinis) May 30, 2020
Usually if I had to stay home I’d spend a lot of time amplifying folk but reading hurts today