FT. WAYNE, Ind.–Ft. Wayne and the Allen County Sheriff’s Dept. are being sued by protesters and by the ACLU for the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray during protests.
The ACLU calls them “chemical weapons”, and accuses the police of pulling protesters out of private businesses where they were seeking shelter from the gas, and of keeping people from leaving the Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge, where they were protesting, before deploying tear gas.
The lawsuit is similar to the one filed against the City of Indianapolis last week, and other lawsuits around the country.
The statement from the ACLU talks about police actions against lawful protesters, but does not address measures taken against people who may have been rioting or damaging businesses.
But, Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana, said last week that he believes Fourth Amendment protections keep police from being able to use what he called “unreasonable force” against protesters and rioters alike.
“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,” read the news release.
The release mentions the Ft. Wayne Police Dept., but does not say the police department is a defendant.
“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.”