A federal judge has denied the city of Detroit’s request to lift a temporary restraining order that restricts police from using batons, shields, tear gas, rubber bullets, chokeholds, and other tactics against peaceful protesters, legal observers, and medical personnel.
U.S. District Court Judge Laurie J. Michelson, who is presiding over a lawsuit filed by the protest group Detroit Will Breathe, issued the restraining order on Sept. 4.
The city urged Michelson to modify the order, insisting without evidence that it had emboldened protesters to use violence. The judge responded that no violence has occurred since the order was imposed and that police still have “a variety of lawful tools when faced with protesters who pose a physical threat or have broken the law.”
“Protesters have an interest in voicing their beliefs and seeking reform,” the judge wrote. “The police have an interest in maintaining the peace and enforcing the laws. These interests can co-exist.”
Even Detroit police Chief James Craig admitted the order would have no impact on the department’s ability to respond to protests, Michelson pointed out.
“The judge’s order is no different than what we’ve always done,” Chief said in a statement shortly after the order was imposed.
In the Aug. 31 lawsuit filed against the city of Detroit and police department, protesters allege officers used excessive force to break up peaceful demonstrations against police brutality. According to the suit, police violated protesters’ constitutional rights by responding to peaceful demonstrations with “beatings, tear gas, pepper spray, and mass arrests.”
Some of the protesters have been hospitalized with serious injuries.
In July, the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office charged a Detroit corporal with three counts of felonious assault for allegedly firing rubber pellets at three photojournalists.
Detroit police, using batons, tear gas & pepper spray, arrested 42 peaceful protesters early Sunday morning. Protesters were bruised & bleeding. Video by Jeffrey Nolish, an observer with Michigan Liberation. pic.twitter.com/XhNIpru9vT— Motor City Muckraker (@MCmuckraker) August 24, 2020
City officials countered that police have used reasonable force when protesters refused to disperse. Detroit’s top attorney Lawrence Garcia also said the city plans to file its own lawsuit against protesters “to stop further violations of law and to hopefully reduce the assaults on police officers.”
City officials declined to comment on the judge’s decision to keep the restraining order intact.
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