ST. LOUIS – The ACLU of Missouri filed a lawsuit today
against the city of St. Louis for unlawful and unconstitutional actions against
people during the Stockley verdict demonstrations of the past week.
“As a legal and advocacy organization, litigation is only
one of the tools the ACLU uses to effect change,” said Jeffrey Mittman,
executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. “To create long-term change, we
must address the problems of policing and racial disparities collaboratively.
Law enforcement officers, community members, experts, advocates, and elected
officials must come together to create sustainable solutions. We must foster
understanding and trust.”
The ACLU lawsuit focuses on police misconduct using chemical
weapons, interfering with video of police activity and violating due process
during Sunday night’s “kettling” incident in downtown St. Louis.
“I think everyone deserves the same rights as I do. I just
want peace and justice,” said plaintiff Maleeha Ahmad, who was pepper sprayed
by police without warning on September 15. “If it hadn’t been for my fellow
peaceful protestors – strangers who came to my aid – I don’t know how my
eyesight would be today. I would have been left out in the sun, on the ground,
with my face burning.”
On both Friday and Sunday, protestors and bystanders had
chemical weapons used against them without proper protocol. Officers also
interfered with people recording police activities in photos and on video. On
Sunday, officers unlawfully detained people – violating their due process
rights – when St. Louis Police used a tactic called “kettling” during a protest
“St. Louis should be a place where all people feel safe
against retaliation from law enforcement, and all should receive due process.
We should strive to be a place where every citizen feels supported by the
communities we call home. This is the vision that drives us into the streets
and inspires us to hold our leaders accountable when they betray our values,”
said plaintiff Alison Dreith, who was pepper sprayed by police without warning
on September 15.
“While long shifts and being the subject of the protest is
understandably challenging for police, that is no excuse for violating the
Constitution,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri.
Right now, St. Louis finds itself in a unique political time
with an opportunity to change.
“St. Louis has the chance to lead the nation if we take a truly
collaborative approach to policing,” said Mittman. “We stand ready to work with
any elected official or police leader in the region to reimagine public