The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana is suing the Fort Wayne Police Department and Allen County Sheriff for their use of chemical agents during protests.
According to an ACLU complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, police in Fort Wayne blocked protesters from leaving the Martin Luther King Bridge in either direction on May 29 and then shot tear gas canisters at them.
The lawsuit also claims that in a separate instance, police dragged protesters out of private businesses in which they were seeking shelter.
The Fort Wayne Police Department said in a statement at the time that “the crowd became hostile toward them and began making threats” to law enforcement before officers deployed smoke and tear gas.
"Police made several announcements to leave the area, to disperse the crowd. The crowd refused. After several attempts and only after the crowd began jumping on cars and then began hurling rocks and water bottles at officers did the Public Safety Response Team deploy smoke and tear gas," the police department said.
The ACLU suit claims police violated the First and Fourth amendments in their handling of protesters.
“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,” Ken Falk, legal director at the ACLU of Indiana, said said in a statement. “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.”
The ACLU has filed several lawsuits related to the protests that were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody May 25.