Protesters Sue Detroit, City Pledges to Countersue

Detroit police fire rubber bullets at a protest in May.

Detroit police fire rubber bullets at a protest in May. Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Protesters against police brutality sued the city for the use of excessive force. The city’s top lawyer said he was “pleased to hear” of the lawsuit—because the city plans to countersue.

Protesters filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Detroit on Monday, saying that police in the city “repeatedly reverted to brutal tactics to punish and abuse peaceful protesters” during demonstrations against police brutality in the past few months. The suit seeks a temporary restraining order to prohibit police from using a variety of “non-lethal” weapons against protesters, including tear gas, rubber bullets, zip ties, sound cannons, and riot shields.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Detroit Will Breathe, a nonprofit community organizing group, and a bloc of fourteen protesters who say they sustained injuries at the hands of Detroit police officers. The plaintiffs include Alexander Anest, a street medic who said he was attempting to help another medic off the ground when police hit him repeatedly with their batons, leaving him with broken ribs and a collapsed right lung. Others said they were shot with rubber bullets while attempting to leave protests, received concussions from batons, were put in chokeholds, as well as subjected to sound cannons and flash grenades without warning. 

The suit includes graphic photos of the injuries protesters sustained at demonstrations and after being arrested.

Detroit, like some other cities across the country, has seen nearly daily protests since May, when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck. The protesters in Detroit claim that the police response to protests about Floyd’s death and broader police brutality issues have contrasted sharply to the police response to other recent protests, particularly those against coronavirus lockdown measures.

Police “responded with unjustified violence to these protests in direct reaction to the fact that the protests confront the racial disparity in police violence and the systemic racism that pervades our society,” the suit claims. “By contrast, [the Detroit Police Department] has protected other protesters in recent history—including protests led by white supremacists—rather than subjecting them to arbitrary curfews, excessive force, and unlawful arrests.”

Named as defendants in the suit are Mayor Michael Duggan, Police Chief James Craig, four individual officers, and 100 “Officer Does,” along with the city of Detroit itself.  

The city’s top lawyer, Lawrence Garcia, responded that he was “pleased to hear” of the lawsuit’s filing. “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 in a statement. Garcia, the Detroit corporation counsel, was not specific about what the city might sue over and denied that protesters were “raising awareness around legitimate racial justice concerns.” He said that they were more intent on “provocation and public nuisance than bringing power to the people.”

Craig, the Detroit police chief since 2013, similarly rejected that protests have been peaceful and said that demonstrators have thrown things at officers and once directed a laser pointer at a police helicopter.  "I appreciate the city fighting to reject what continues to be another perpetual false narrative,” he said on Monday.

The police chief also said that his department is already investigating around two dozen complaints filed against officers in recent months in relation to protests, although they are struggling to get witnesses to cooperate. One officer, Daniel Debono, was charged with multiple counts of felonious assault related to his actions during a May protest. Local prosecutor Kym Worthy said that there were “simply no explicable reasons” why Debono allegedly fired rubber bullets at three journalists who were leaving a protest area. 

At least two lawmakers have called for a more thorough investigation into allegations of police violence. U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, a Democratic House member who is part of “the squad” in Congress, said that the “entire elected Board of Police Commissioners [must] take action” to investigate instances of excessive force. Michigan state Sen. Stephanie Chang called for an independent investigation into the serious injuries suffered by some demonstrators at a protest in late August..

The protesters who filed the suit say that they are not intending to antagonize police, but are trying to make protests more peaceful by preventing the use of weapons that can harm protesters. "Plaintiffs do not seek to stop the police from doing their jobs," the suit says. "They seek an end to the excessive, unjustified, and consistent pattern of violence that has caused serious injury to so many and deterred others from participating in demonstrations at all."

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
Orlando Protects Citizens During Heavy Rain Events by Optimizing Water Data Intelligence
Orlando, FL, USA
St. Louis Uses Interactive Kiosks as a Critical COVID-19 Communications Platform
St. Louis, MO, USA
Olathe, KC Takes its Community Engagement to the Next Level with a Civic Engagement Platform
Olathe, KS, USA

NEXT STORY: More People With Felony Convictions Can Vote, but Roadblocks Remain

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.