FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana announced Thursday they have filed a lawsuit against law enforcement agencies in Fort Wayne after their use of tear gas against those who were protesting police brutality over the past four weeks.
The ACLU says the suit calls for "the City of Fort Wayne and the Allen County Sheriff to immediately stop the use of chemical agents and projectiles on protesters."
Protest pictures Fort Wayne. Credit: Eva Baez
The lawsuit seeking an injunction and damages was filed by the ACLU of Indiana on behalf of the protesters.
In recent weeks, FWPD and members of the Allen County Sheriff’s Department have fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray at protesters during numerous demonstrations following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and they have taken other actions to discourage lawful protest activities.
The lawsuit argues that the use of chemical agents and projectiles for crowd control violates the First and Fourth Amendments.
It adds that FWPD and members of the ACSD deployed chemical irritants and taken other actions against protesters downtown on several occasions over the past month.
According to the ACLU of Indiana complaint, on May 29, protesters marched to the nearby Martin Luther King Bridge where police blocked protesters from leaving the bridge in either direction and then shot tear gas canisters at them.
The ACLU says FWPD and members of the ACSD have used force to prevent peaceful protesters from gathering on the Courthouse Green and in other public places in Fort Wayne.
More recently, on June 14, as protesters dispersed to get away from the weapons being deployed, police dragged protesters out of private businesses in which they were seeking shelter, according to a release.
“Police must not respond to protesters speaking out against police brutality with yet more brutality. We will not let these violent attacks on our constitutional rights go unchecked,” said Ken Falk, legal director at the ACLU of Indiana. “Excessive use of force against protesters chills free speech, and widens the rift of distrust between communities and the police that are sworn to serve them.”
This lawsuit comes just a week after the ACLU of Indiana filed a similar lawsuit against the City of Indianapolis.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.
FOX 55 has reached out to city and county officials for comment and will provide additional updates later on.
You can view the full court filing below.