INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indy10 Black Lives Matter and three protesters are suing Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department through the American Civil Liberties Union. They say officers used excessive force on protesters when they fired tear gas, pepper balls and other weapons at demonstrations throughout the city.
The lawsuit’s goal is to get a ban in writing for chemical and projectile weapons against protesters, so nobody has to be afraid when exercising their rights.
For the last couple of weeks, police have kept their distance from protesters as they marched through the streets. But the weekend of May 29, downtown looked like a war zone as police shot canisters of gas at protesters in an attempt to disperse crowds. That Sunday, News 8’s Richard Essex captured a viral video of IMPD officers using batons and shoving two protesters.
“Well, tear gas and pepper balls have been prohibited by a treaty signed by the United States,- among other countries- prohibited for use in war,” ACLU Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk said. “They are chemical agents that can seriously injure persons.”
Indy10 and the ACLU say to prevent these methods from being used against any future protesters, they’re filing a federal lawsuit.
“The main goal is to make sure that what has been repeated is not- and to make sure these chemical weapons are completely taken out of the arsenal by IMPD when it comes to peaceful protests,” Falk said.
They say IMPD’s actions hurt the relations between the community and the department. They say the steps taken violate the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“If you’re engaged in peaceful protest in America, police authorities should not be doing anything to discourage you,” Falk said. “Whether that be firing chemical weapons at you or pushing you out of the way or telling you you can’t protest. The first amendment and the ability to assemble for peaceful protest is a right that we hold dear.”
The ACLU says this needs to be taken up in court, because a promise to not use those tools ever again isn’t legally binding.
“The city really saying ‘we’re not going to do it’ is not sufficient under the law to mean that it ends,” Falk said. “We need to have that memorialized in some way. But, certainly, if the city is willing to start right now negotiating whatever form that agreement would take, we would welcome that.”
News 8 reached out to IMPD for a comment on the lawsuit and they said, “Out of respect for the judicial process, we do not comment on litigation.”