ACLU Sues Phoenix Police For Fending Off Anti-Trump Protesters With Pepper Spray

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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The ACLU sued Arizona police Tuesday on accusations that they misused pepper spray against protesters at a Trump rally and then refused to respond to records requests.

The lawsuit centers on an Aug. 22 protest against an appearance from President Donald Trump in Phoenix, the Associated Press reported. The protests escalated to violence, and police deployed tear gas and pepper spray in an effort to force them to comply with dispersal orders. The ACLU filed two records requests seeking information on police handling of the protests. Both were denied, and now, the ACLU is suing for a response.

“The public deserves to see the critical records documenting the Phoenix Police Department’s actions,” The ACLU claimed. “The department must stop withholding the information about how and why officers used violent force and sent many Arizonans home with cuts, bruises, and other injuries.”

Police argue their use of pepper spray and tear gas was justified when the protesters turned violent and they allegedly began throwing objects at officers.

Police said they are still sifting through an abundance of records regarding the Aug. 22 protests, but Phoenix police spokesman Jonathan Howard said they won’t comment on ongoing litigation, according to the AP.

The ACLU requested video, training materials, and weapons inventories from officers.

The ACLU has made a habit of suing police departments for their use of pepper spray and tear gas. The organization also filed a lawsuit against the St. Louis police department over its handling of a Sept. 17 protest against he acquittal of former officer Jason Stockley in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. (RELATED: St. Louis Police Now Subjected To Monthly Readings About Not Hurting Journalists)

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. (RELATED: St. Louis Protesters Surround Reporter, Throw Bottles At Him [VIDEO])

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.

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