The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri sued the city of St. Louis Friday, alleging that police misused chemical weapons while handling the city’s protests.
The ACLU announced the lawsuit in a Friday press release after a full week of violent protests in St. Louis over the acquittal of former officer Jason Stockley in the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith. The ACLU alleges an unconstitutional misuse of pepper spray and a lack of due process when police arrested more than 120 protesters Sunday night.
“St. Louis should be a place where all people feel safe against retaliation from law enforcement, and all should receive due process,” said Alison Dreith, a plaintiff in the case. “We should strive to be a place where every citizen feels supported by the communities we call home. This is the vision that drives us into the streets and inspires us to hold our leaders accountable when they betray our values.”
The plaintiffs in the case claim that they were pepper sprayed or detained without warning during the protests, which allegedly breaks with police procedure for handling protests. The ACLU also claims that officers illegally interfered with protesters recording video of police misconduct.
The organization acknowledged that police were working long hours and that dealing with protesters is difficult, but clarified that working conditions are “no excuse for violating the Constitution.” The ACLU sees the situation as an opportunity, however, claiming the city is in a “unique political time” that makes it ripe for reform. (RELATED: St. Louis Protesters Surround Reporter, Throw Bottles At Him [VIDEO])
“St. Louis has the chance to lead the nation if we take a truly collaborative approach to policing,” said ACLU Missouri President Jeffrey Mittman. “We stand ready to work with any elected official or police leader in the region to reimagine public safety.”
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