A proposed class action lawsuit alleges days of protesting and hundreds of incidents have shown that the City of Denver’s police force cannot be trusted with the use of non-lethal weapons against protestors.
Filed June 4 in Denver District Court, the 26-page complaint alleges “less than lethal” force is being used by police officers against those protesting the killing of George Floyd “without regard to the constitutional rights of protestors and bystanders.” According to the lawsuit, Denver police have “time and again” targeted journalists, ordinary citizens and medics looking to give aide to those harmed.
Further, the lawsuit alleges Denver’s police force has failed to follow training—or has not been trained—on the use of “less than lethal” force, with many officers having “simply used these weapons to assert and show their dominance over protestors and the citizens of Denver and Colorado.” The lawsuit alleges the conduct of Denver police officers during the protests are not isolated incidents but part of a “force-wide use of excessive and unconstitutional force” to restrict the constitutional rights of protestors.
“This pattern and practice of conduct by Denver police tramples on the Constitution,” the complaint reads, alleging police have utilized tactics meant to inflict “maximum damage, pain, and distress to their target.”
The lawsuit states that peaceful protests have been staged in downtown Denver every night since May 28, three days after George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. The lawsuit says that although some protestors have engaged in destructive activity, “these incidences have been remote when compared to the thousands of otherwise peaceful protestors.”
From the beginning of the protests, Denver police resorted to wearing riot gear and utilizing riot control tactics without issuing clear warnings and orders to disperse, according to the complaint, which includes a screenshot from one now-terminated police officer’s Instagram account with the caption “Let’s start a riot."
The lawsuit goes on to describe numerous incidents the four plaintiffs argue show the Denver Police Department’s mentality amid the protests was “not … to serve a public safety role, but instead to dominate the protestors,” claiming pepper spray was used as “a tool to suppress expression” not “appreciated” by police and to “deter documentation” of their activity. According to the lawsuit, aDenver Postjournalist was struck twice with pepper balls that cut his arm and shattered his press credentials. AnotherPostreporter had at least one pepper ball fired at her feet, the case says, and a Denver7 reporter posted on Twitter that a station photographer was hit four times by “paint balls” fired by police.
According to the complaint, reporters for 9NEWS and Denverite posted on Twitter about similar experiences.
The lawsuit alleges the Denver police have resorted to the use of “less-than-lethal” force “without [a] legitimate public safety goal” and instead as a way to “prove a point.”
“The Denver Police have proven, night after night, that they cannot be trusted to use these weapons,” the plaintiffs—a union organizer, a student and former social worker, a medic, and a Denver public employee—allege.
The lawsuit’s filing comes on the heels of a case filed earlier in the week against the City of Minneapolis by a woman who claims she and her daughter were among a number of peaceful protestorssprayed with chemical irritantby the city’s police department in retaliation for their opposition to police tactics.
The suit looks to represent a class comprising all protestors who intend to engage in protest activities, render aide to those who have been injured, and record the actions of police officers on duty in public places within the city and county of Denver.
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