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60 Protesters Sue City, Alleging Chicago Police Abused Them ‘Without Justification’ At Summer Protests

The lawsuit includes graphic photos and video screenshots of the alleged abuse. A city spokesperson said "these are allegations at this stage and not proof."

A Chicago Police officer shoves a protester to the ground in the Loop on May 30, 2020.
Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Sixty protesters filed a lawsuit against the city in federal court Thursday, alleging Chicago Police officers engaged in “abusive tactics and excessive force” during summer protests against police violence and in support of Black lives.

Police Supt. David Brown and 20 police officers are also named in the suit, which alleges officers struck and choked protesters with batons, arrested them under false pretenses, pointed guns and committed other violent acts “without justification.”

Alleged incidents between May 30 and Aug. 15 are documented in the lawsuit. The claims primarily stem from the May 30 and 31 protests in response to the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, a July 17 rally for Black and Indigenous solidarity in Grant Park and an Aug. 15 protest Downtown.

The city’s Law Department had not been served with the lawsuit as of Thursday afternoon, “but it is important to remember that these are allegations at this stage and not proof,” spokesperson Kathleen Fieweger said in a statement.

“We will review the complaint thoroughly, and each allegation it contains, once we have been served and respond through the courts as appropriate,” Fieweger said.

Graphic photos and screenshots from videos of various incidents are included in the lawsuit filing.

One plaintiff, 18-year-old GoodKids MadCity organizer Miracle Boyd, said in the lawsuit her front teeth were knocked out by a Chicago Police officer as she protested at the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park in July.

Boyd’s claims have been supported by video of the incident and multiple elected officials have called for justice in response. Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th), whose daughter is good friends with Boyd, said in July watching video of the attack horrified her.

Chicago Police are “so busy protecting white supremacy — they’re so busy protecting a Christopher Columbus statue that they beat her,” Taylor said at the time.

Another plaintiff, 27-year-old Damon Williams, claims he was body-slammed and concussed before being arrested at a protest in Hyde Park on May 31.

Williams was charged with disorderly conduct, according to data obtained by Block Club in June through public records requests. “The false charge” was eventually dismissed, according to the lawsuit.

A third plaintiff, 19-year-old Justin Cosby, alleges he was thrown to the ground and lost consciousness after spraying the police with a water gun during a May 30 protest Downtown.

Cosby claims he was detained at the Central (1st) Police District headquarters, 1718 S. State St., for more than a day.

While there, Cosby alleges he was denied a bathroom for four hours, food and water for 12 hours and a phone call for approximately 24 hours, despite his repeated requests and calls to the police department from supporters asking his status.

“Our records do not indicate that anyone by the name of Justin Cosby was arrested” from May 30-June 7, Chicago Police Sgt. Kimberly Woods said in June.

Patrick Mullane, a spokesperson for Mayor Lori Lightfoot, would not clarify why Cosby is not listed in the arrest reports provided to Block Club at the time.

More than 50 other claims are detailed in the lawsuit, including allegations of police officers knocking protesters off bikes; “kettling” crowds; arresting protesters without explaining what they were being charged with; and ignoring a protester’s claim that they needed their epilepsy medication, leading to a seizure and concussion.

Chicago Police received 520 protest-related complaints against officers from May 29–Oct. 31.

Eight officers were stripped of their police powers in response to the complaints. The Civilian Office of Police Accountability received so many complaints, the agency had to establish a special unit to investigate, chief administrator Sydney Roberts said during a city budget hearing last week.

Nearly 800 people were arrested for disorderly conduct from May 30–June 7 according to police records, following a curfew imposed by Lightfoot in response to the civil unrest.

Four out of five people arrested over those six days were Black. Eleven percent were identified as Hispanic, while non-Hispanic white people — who make up one-third of Chicago’s population — accounted for just 7 percent of arrests.

Of the 60 protesters identified in the lawsuit, 40 identify as white, 11 identify as Black, five identify as Latinx, three identify as Asian and one identifies as Native American.

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