The City of Santa Rosa, Calif. and its police chief face a lawsuit over the Santa Rosa Police Department's use of violent crowd control tactics “without regard for the safety and constitutional rights of those assembled.”
Two plaintiffs have filed a proposed class action against the City of Santa Rosa, California in search of a temporary restraining order over the Santa Rosa Police Department’s (SRPD) use of allegedly violent riot control tactics against individuals peacefully protesting in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Filed on June 23, the 24-page lawsuit says thousands have taken to the streets of Santa Rosa, located roughly 50 miles north of San Francisco in Sonoma County, topeacefully protestthe May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. Despite the peaceful nature of the demonstrations, which the case says have seen “notably few” destructive incidents, the SRPD has nonetheless unjustifiably declared the protests unlawful assemblies as a means to deter participation, the plaintiffs allege.
At the onset of the protests, SRPD Chief Rainer Navarro ordered the force to shift almost immediately to the use of violent riot control tactics “without regard for the safety and constitutional rights of those assembled,” the plaintiffs say. The SRPD’s tactics included widespread and indiscriminateuse of tear gas without warning and “less-lethal” munitions such as sting ball grenades, chalk grenades and rubber bullets, the lawsuit says, adding that officers utilized these crowd control tactics “in methods designed to maximize the likelihood of serious injury.”
Though Chief Navarro has stated publicly that SRPD officers do not aim for the head, the injuries suffered by protestors “speak to the contrary,” the case claims. According to the lawsuit, Chief Navarro has described instances in which protestors were injured as “isolated incidents” while at the same time justifying the SRPD’s use of force by claiming “my officers were put in great danger.” Moreover, Chief Navarro has claimed publicly that the Santa Rosa protests were “far from peaceful” and that force was used after officers were provoked by demonstrators.
According to the plaintiffs, however, the defendants’ statements constitute an organized whitewashing of the use of violent crowd control tactics alleged in the complaint, with the apparent perpetrators facing no repercussions despite clear evidence of injuries.
“In the meantime, no officers have been placed on administrative leave, no officers have been disciplined, and no police video of the violence has been released by SRPD, despite the hospitalization of numerous protesters and the public outcry against the indiscriminate and unnecessary use of such gratuitous violence against civilians assembled in lawful protest,” the lawsuit says.
According to the complaint, Sonoma County has seen 91 police-related deaths in the last two decades, including the shooting of 13-year-oldAndy Lopezin 2013.
The lawsuit looks to represent all demonstrators who participated in or intended to participate in the protests beginning May 30, 2020 in the City of Santa Rosa.
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