Police Failed to Protect the First Amendment Rights of Protesters
ACLU of Arizona calls for independent investigation, urges witnesses to submit additional evidence
PHOENIX—Following the widespread, indiscriminate, and excessive use of crowd-control weapons by law enforcement officers last night in Phoenix, the ACLU of Arizona is demanding an independent investigation and calling on people to submit testimony, as well as any video or photographic evidence, of excessive use of force by police. The ACLU will use this evidence to advocate for strong, clear, and public policies, which the Phoenix Police Department currently lacks, about the use of crowd-control weapons.
Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, released the following statement:
“The police failed to protect the First Amendment rights of protesters. Shortly after Donald Trump finished attacking the First Amendment rights of the press inside of the Phoenix Convention Center, Phoenix Police began attacking the First Amendment rights of protestors outside. They used harmful chemical agents against a peaceful crowd, which turned a nonviolent gathering into one where many, many people were harmed. Law enforcement’s decision to swiftly and brutally end hours of civil protest could profoundly chill the freedoms of speech and assembly in Phoenix for years to come.
“We have received many complaints that people, including children and people with mobility and respiratory issues, were taken by surprise when the police bombarded them with chemical irritants, with no warning. Who in the future would want to take the risk to protest in Phoenix when it is clear that the city’s police department will take physical action against them without cause or notice? The health risks associated with deploying so-called ‘nonlethal’ weapons cannot be understated. Tear gas and pepper spray can have devastating health effects.
“We have heard from dozens of people who attended the protest yesterday and expressed outrage about the assault by police that ended what had been for many people a cathartic expression of their concern over President Trump’s policies, statements, and presence. We do not have faith that the law enforcement agencies involved in this abuse of power will hold themselves accountable so we are calling for an independent investigation that will provide real answers.”
Sandra Castro Solis, community engagement coordinator for the ACLU of Arizona, said:
“The ACLU organized more than 70 neutral, legal observers to document the actions of law enforcement throughout the protest. Many of our legal observers, who were themselves hit with chemical irritants, reported the police attacked peaceful crowds, even continuing to harass and intimidate people who had retreated to receive medical attention.
“Community organizations planned for days to ensure the protest would be nonviolent, including hosting multiple de-escalation trainings, preparing legal observers, and ensuring water and medical care were available. That was all undone when police suddenly decided the time for peaceful protest was over.”
Written complaints about possible civil liberties and civil rights violations can be submitted online: https://action.aclu.org/secure/az-complaint-form. Videos and photos of possible police misconduct can be submitted via Dropbox: http://bit.ly/2v6RtDV.
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