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ACLU files lawsuit over Phoenix police actions during Trump protests

Protesters yell after Phoenix police used 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 of Arizona filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday against the city of Phoenix and its police department for shutting down protests against President Donald Trump last year.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four individuals and two community organizations involved in a rally outside the Phoenix Convention Center while Trump was appearing there on Aug. 22, 2017.

Kathy Brody, ACLU of Arizona legal director, told KTAR News 92.3 FM that protesters had been exercising their constitutional rights throughout the day and posed no threat when they were confronted by Phoenix police around 8:30 p.m.

“At least hundreds of people still there were peacefully protesting, and Phoenix police, with no reason, came out with tear gas, pepper spray, projectile weapons and fired them into the crowd,” she said.

According to an ACLU news release, officers fired nearly 600 projectiles at protesters.

The ACLU is asking the court to certify a class so anybody who was hurt physically or had their First Amendment rights denied can be financially compensated, Brody said.

“And we’re also asking for injunctive relief to put in place some kind of remedial provisions so that the Phoenix police will never do this again,” she said.

The groups in the lawsuit, Puente and Poder in Action, played a part in organizing the protests.

In addition to the city, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams was named as a subject in the suit.

“She called the actions of her personnel, the Phoenix police, professional, and she stood by them and has not done anything to remedy this gross violation of constitutional rights,” Brody said.

Brody also noted that violent encounters involving Phoenix officers have been on the rise “beyond this particular protest.”

“It shows in the number of shootings and fatal shootings at the hands of the Phoenix police so far this year,” she said.

“At the very least, it seems that some policy change, some training and some other measures need to be put in place to stop the Phoenix police from continuing this type of violence against citizens.”

The city of Phoenix said it is reviewing the complaint.

“The city maintains that the police department acted in a professional, decisive and immediate responsive manner to provide public safety,” Julie Watters, city spokesperson, said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Nailea Leon contributed to this report.

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