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ACLU sues Phoenix police for downtown Trump protest records

Phoenix police move protesters away after using tear gas outside the Phoenix Convention Center, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, in Phoenix. Protests were held against President Donald Trump as he hosted a rally inside the convention center. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Tuesday demanding the Phoenix Police Department release records pertaining to a protest in downtown during President Donald Trump’s campaign rally.

“The ACLU of Arizona received many, many complaints from people who witnessed and suffered from the Phoenix Police Department’s extreme tactics against peaceful protesters,” ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Kathy Brody said in a press release.

The protest began peacefully outside of the Phoenix Convention Center during Trump’s August visit. However, after the event let out, some protesters became violent and police used tear gas, pepper spray and other means to disperse the crowd.

The agency decided to sue after it filed two Freedom of Information Act requests — one of which was sent 12 weeks ago — and had yet to receive a response.

The ACLU said it wanted access to police video recordings of the event.

The agency also said it wanted copies of police communications, training materials, reports, weapons inventories and protest policies.

“Under the law, the public needs to be able to promptly see the police department’s own records so that we can judge for ourselves whether officers acted appropriately,” ACLU of Arizona staff attorney Darrell Hill said.

Police spokesman Sgt. Jonathan Howard said the department could not comment on the lawsuit.

However, he said investigators were still sifting through “an immense amount of records” and a review should be completed in the coming weeks.

“It has always been our intention to release the review and associated records as quickly as possible,” he said in an email.

Some police footage of the protest was released in late August.

When the video was released, Howard said the video showed protesters were throwing objects before police deployed tear gas, which was consistent with what Police Chief Jeri Williams said.

Williams said days after the protest that she was proud of the way police behaved and gave them an A+ grade.

However, others — including the ACLU — weren’t as impressed.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, who attended the protest but left before the gas was fired, called for an investigation days after the protest.

“One of the reasons I’ve asked for an investigation is, first of all, any time there’s use of force by police officer or any government agency against any citizen, there should always be an investigation,” he said.

“We need to have accountability for those that we give power to.”

Gallego said a transparent investigation into the protest would help re-establish public trust and possibly give the police a chance to make changes to its operating procedures — should any be warranted — before the next big event arrives in town.

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