SPRINGFIELD, Ore. (AP) — Springfield police officers stifled protesters’ free-speech rights during protests against the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, particularly during a July 29 march, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.
Black Unity, individual members of Black Unity and others allege in a federal lawsuit that Springfield Police Department officers “engaged in several unconstitutional actions to punish, prevent or chill Plaintiffs’ First Amendment activities” during the march.
The lawsuit names the city, Chief Richard Lewis and more than two dozen individual officers of various ranks, The Register-Guard reported.
On July 29, the lawsuit says law enforcement officers unlawfully detained people, colluded with and encouraged counter-protesters to “amass and use force against Plaintiffs,” blocked roads to prevent the march and used excessive force, among other actions that violated protesters’ rights and denied them equal protection.
The City of Springfield didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but officials are reviewing the complaint.
The protest, which brought several hundred people to the east Springfield neighborhood over a Halloween skeleton hung with a noose among other decorations in a nearby yard, was largely peaceful but was marred by clashes with police and with counter-protesters. Police arrested five protesters and one counter-protester.
Springfield has hired use-of-force expert Rick Braziel to conduct an external investigation into police actions that night.
Police took similar actions June 26 when protesters marched in Springfield, the lawsuit adds.
The lawsuit includes four claims under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth amendments and the Civil Rights Act — unconstitutional restraint, excessive force, wrongful arrest and conspiracy to deprive civil rights.