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INDIANAPOLIS – Occupy Kokomo protesters who were arrested at the Howard County Courthouse in 2011 filed suit today against the Howard County Sheriff and members of the sheriff’s department for substantial violations of their civil rights. The complaint states that officers employed excessive force and detained the protesters without probable cause, in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. The complaint also states that the officers committed assault and battery, false arrest and false imprisonment.
Gavin Rose, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said, “The right of people to engage in peaceful activities on public property is protected by the Constitution. When law enforcement acts with reckless or callous indifference to these rights, they must be held accountable.”
In December 2011, the Sheriff and deputies assaulted the protesters, who had entered the courthouse to inform the department of protest activities the following day. Darren Burke, one of the protesters, had a dollar bill taped over his mouth, which officers alleged violated courthouse rules against wearing a “mask.”
A video taken by Burke on a tablet computer and published by The Kokomo Tribune shows the Sheriff and officers attacking Burke and Gregory Lambert and tackling them to the ground. The video also shows that the protesters did nothing to threaten the officers. Lambert lost consciousness during the incident and was later diagnosed with a concussion. Both Burke and Lambert, who live in Indianapolis, were arrested and charged with resisting law enforcement.
“Most law enforcement officers serve bravely and admirably to protect us and preserve the peace,” said ACLU of Indiana Executive Director Jane Henegar. “However, when these public servants abuse the trust and power we, as a people, have given to them, the ACLU will stand up to correct the wrong. In a free and democratic society, no person should be subjected to brutality and abuse at the hands of our government.”
The case, Darren Burke and Gregory Lambert v. Steve Rogers, et al., was filed in the United States District Court Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division under Cause No. 1:13-cv-825.