Three woman have filed a proposed class action lawsuit over the alleged use of excessive force against and unlawful arrest of peaceful, non-violent protestors by the Dallas Police Department (DPD).
Filed June 30 against the city and Dallas County, the 13-page complaint says the plaintiffs participated in peaceful protests in Dallas in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police and were arrested, charged and jailed overnight by the DPD despite participating in no unlawful activity. According to the lawsuit, the city chose to ignore protestors’ peacefulness and “attempts to comply with officer directions” in favor of “opting to punish people for their presence and their protests, not their actions.”
The plaintiffs allege Dallas discriminately “used the arm of the law to put a stranglehold” on protected speech. Specifically, the suit says the DPD used “vaguely-worded laws” to arrest protestors and employed “excessive force” in the process. Dallas police used tear gas and rubber bullets, often at close range, to break up crowds of peaceful protestors, the case says.
Further, the DPD rounded up and arrested non-violet protestors often without informing them what they would be charged with before holding the individuals overnight for “riot participation, obstruction of a roadway, and curfew violations.” According to the plaintiffs, the DPD “selectively enforced the law in a manner that targeted peaceful protestors” who were engaging in activity protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
More broadly, the actions of the DPD amid the protests amounted to an attempt to quash future demonstrations by intimidating peaceful protestors and threatening criminal charges, the lawsuit alleges. According to the complaint, the defendants are responsible for the jailing of peaceful protestors, who the plaintiffs say were intimidated during their incarceration, denied cups for water and told that “[y]ou should have thought about that before you came down here [to protest].”
One plaintiff, who attended a march near Interstate 35E with her teenage daughter, claims DPD began firing rubber bullets into the crowd before she and her daughter became separated in an attempt to flee. The lawsuit says the plaintiff “witnessed a Dallas Police squad car attempt to ram her daughter” before the plaintiff was arrested. The woman was not allowed by DPD to ensure her daughter was safe, the complaint alleges.
Another plaintiff claims two Dallas police officers “tackled her from behind, slammed her to the ground face first, and pinned her face-down” with a riot shield as she attempted to leave a protest area. The woman, who says she did nothing but hold a Black Lives Matter sign while standing next to her car, was told by the DPD that “you were holding a sign, you were doing something [wrong],” the lawsuit claims.
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs and those similarly situated were released the following day after paying a bond of at least $500.