Individuals protesting police brutality, today sued the City of Fort Wayne and the Allen County Sheriff to immediately stop the use of chemical agents and projectiles on protesters. The lawsuit seeking an injunction and damages was filed by the ACLU of Indiana.
In recent weeks, the Fort Wayne Police Department (FWPD) and members of the Allen County Sheriff’s Department have fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray at protesters during numerous demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and they have taken other actions to discourage lawful protest activities. The lawsuit argues that the use of chemical agents and projectiles for crowd control violates the First and Fourth Amendments
FWPD and members of the Sheriff’s Department have deployed chemical irritants and taken other actions against protesters near the Allen County Courthouse or on the Courthouse Green on several occasions over the past month. According to the ACLU of Indiana complaint, on May 29, protesters marched to the nearby Martin Luther King Bridge where police blocked protesters from leaving the bridge in either direction, and then shot tear gas canisters at them. FWPD and members of the Sheriff’s Department have used force to prevent peaceful protesters from gathering on the Courthouse Green and in other public places in Fort Wayne.
More recently, on June 14, as protesters dispersed to get away from the weapons being deployed, police dragged protesters out of private businesses in which they were seeking shelter.
“Police must not respond to protesters speaking out against police brutality with yet more brutality. We will not let these violent attacks on our constitutional rights go unchecked,” said Ken Falk, legal director at the ACLU of Indiana. “Excessive use of force against protesters chills free speech, and widens the rift of distrust between communities and the police that are sworn to serve them.”
This lawsuit comes just a week after the ACLU of Indiana filed a similar lawsuit against the City of Indianapolis, and joins a number of legal actions the ACLU has been taking around the country in response to escalating law enforcement attacks on journalists and protesters.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.