A federal judge Friday evening temporarily banned Detroit police from using batons, shields, gas, rubber bullets, chokeholds or sound cannons against Black Lives Matter protesters.
U.S. District Court Judge Laurie Michelson partially granted a temporary restraining order Detroit Will Breathe sought when it sued the city of Detroit on Monday, alleging that police were using excessive force to stop them from exercising their free speech rights. The order will be in effect for at least 14 days.
“It’s a win but the fight continues,” said Jack Schulz, who filed the lawsuit for Detroit Will Breathe. “For a short period, we know that the police will not be able to use the brutal tactics they have in the past against peaceful protesters without violating a court order.”
Schulz added: “We are still seeking permanent relief form the police’s ability to be able to use these tactics.”
Informed of the ruling by a reporter, a spokesman for the city of Detroit did not immediately have a response to the ruling.
On Tuesday, Michelson ordered lawyers for both sides to “meet and confer to discuss a potential resolution” to Detroit Will Breathe’s request for a temporary restraining order that would force police to soften their tactics.
The lawyers spoke with the judge by phone Wednesday, and again Friday afternoon, but could not resolve their differences.
That left the decision to Michelson, who wrote in an order issued Friday evening that she reviewed videos of police engaging with protesters.
“These videos, buttressed by the testimonial evidence, establishes that at least some Plaintiffs have a likelihood of success on their claims that the DPD used excessive force against them,” she wrote.
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The lawsuit claims Detroit police used batons, shields and rubber bullets to fracture bones, inflict baseball-sized lumps and concussions, collapse lungs and cause other injuries that left protesters hospitalized and disoriented during marches in Detroit that started on May 29.
Michelson also wrote: “The Court recognizes that police officers are often faced with dangerous and rapidly evolving situations while trying to enforce the law and maintain the safety of the public. And it is important that police officers have non-lethal options to use to protect themselves and the public when necessary. But the relief that Plaintiffs request leaves open all lawful options for police to use reasonable force when necessary to defend against a threat and to make arrests when supported by probable cause. And any possible benefit police officers could gain from deploying chemical agents, projectiles, or striking weapons against demonstrators who pose no threat and are not resisting lawful commands is outweighed by the irreparable harm peaceful protestors would face.”
When the lawsuit was filed Monday, Detroit Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia, the city’s top lawyer, said he welcomed it.
“The litigation will provide the City an opportunity to counter with our own suit — to stop further violations of law and to hopefully reduce the assaults on police officers,” Garcia said.
Detroit police spokeswoman Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood said Monday that Police Chief James Craig appreciates the city fighting what he called a “perpetually false narrative.”
Craig, who is being sued along with Mayor Mike Duggan and multiple Detroit police officers, has said police used legal force to respond to protesters who created havoc downtown, violated curfew, damaged police vehicles, and hurled rocks, iron railroad spikes and fireworks at officers, some of whom were injured.
Craig said police are investigating about two dozen complaints against officers. One officer has been charged with felonious assault for allegedly firing rubber bullets that struck three photographers working for media organizations.
Duggan has praised and defended Craig’s leadership of the police department in the wake of national outrage over the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer put a knee on his neck and ignored his pleas that he could not breathe. That fatal encounter, combined with police shootings of Black men and women across America, prompted nationwide protests this summer. Detroit has avoided the rioting and looting that has plagued other cities. Detroit police have made about 200 arrests during three high-profile clashes with protesters.
M.L. Elrick is a Pulitzer Prize- and Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @elrick, Facebook at ML Elrick and Instagram at ml_elrick.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Judge bans Detroit police from using batons, gas, chokeholds on protesters — for now
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