FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Demonstrators protesting police brutality sued the city of Fort Wayne and the Allen County sheriff on Friday to halt the use of tear gas, other chemical agents and projectiles against them.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of individual protesters. It seeks an injunction and damages. The lawsuit argues that the use of chemical agents and projectiles for crowd control violates the First and Fourth Amendments.
The Fort Wayne Police Department and members of the Allen County Sheriff’s Department have fired tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray at protesters during demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the ACLU said.
The Associated Press on Friday left phone messages seeking comment for representatives of the city and the sheriff.
The ACLU filed a similar lawsuit against the city of Indianapolis last week.
On May 29, protesters marched to the Martin Luther King Bridge, where police blocked protesters from leaving the bridge in either direction, and then shot tear gas canisters at them, the ACLU complaint says. Fort Wayne police 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, it said.
On June 14, after protesters dispersed to get away from the weapons being deployed, police dragged them out of private businesses in which they sought shelter, the complaint said.
“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.”
The Fort Wayne Police Department released statement May 30 on the previous day’s protests saying it deployed smoke and tear gas after a peaceful crowd turned hostile, refused to disperse and began hurling rocks and water bottles at officers.