As the city was roiled with protests this summer, Chicago police officers committed a host of civil rights violations against many of those who were speaking out against police violence, a new federal lawsuit claims.
“While the plaintiffs were exercising their First Amendment rights to protest anti-Black police violence, Chicago police officers brutally hit them with batons, including strikes to the head, punched them in the face, tackled them to the ground, kneed and kicked them, dragged them through the streets, used chemical agents on them and kettled them,” attorney Vanessa del Valle said during a news conference Thursday.
The 203-page lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court on behalf of 60 people who claim they were victimized by officers during protests largely sparked by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the shooting of Jacob Blake.
CPD Supt. David Brown and 20 other officers were named as defendants, though more officers will likely be named as defendants as the suit progresses. Mayor Lori Lightfoot may also be named a defendant, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
The 17-count suit alleges violations of protesters’ First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as malicious prosecution, failure to intervene and a “racially motivated conspiracy to deprive plaintiffs of their constitutional rights.”
“We have not been served, but it is important to remember that these are allegations at this stage and not proof,” Kathleen Fieweger, a spokeswoman for the city’s Law Department, said in an emailed statement. “We will review the complaint thoroughly, and each allegation it contains, once we have been served and respond through the courts as appropriate.”
A particularly violent clash between police and protesters occurred in mid-July near the since-removed Christopher Columbus statue in the south end of Grant Park.
As hundreds of protesters were in the park, some lobbed frozen bottles of water and fireworks at police. Blunt objects and sharpened PVC pipe were also weaponized against officers.
Video provided by the CPD shows dozens of people using umbrellas to conceal their activities from surveillance cameras and officers on scene. Eighteen officers were hospitalized for injuries sustained during the clash, and one CPD sergeant’s eye was wounded so severely that he may not be able to return to work, according to a police source.
Among those injured by police was Miracle Boyd, an 18-year-old organizer with GoodKids MadCity. Video taken in the park shows a CPD officer punching Boyd in the face, knocking out several of her teeth.
“The officer who punched me needs to be held accountable for his actions,” Boyd said Thursday.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates allegations of police misconduct, said it received more than 500 civilian complaints related to protests between late May and late October. As of Thursday, there were 170 ongoing protest-related investigations, according to COPA.