Dozens of people filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday alleging Chicago police officers unlawfully assaulted and detained them during this summer’s racial injustice protests following the death of George Floyd.
The 200-page lawsuit, obtained by the Chicago Tribune, accuses the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and other city agencies of using “brutal, violent, and unconstitutional tactics that are clearly intended to injure, silence and intimidate plaintiffs and other protesters.”
“These abuse tactics include beating protesters with batons — often striking them in the head; tackling and beating protesters while on the ground; using chemical agents against protesters; falsely arresting protesters; and trapping protesters in enclosed areas,” the suit reads.
It accuses officers of targeting protest leaders, legal observers, medics and people recording the demonstrations “with unlawful, retaliatory and lethal force.” It also alleges that police destroyed protesters’ cameras, phones, eyeglasses, and confiscated bikes, backpacks and other personal belongings.
The lawsuit, which includes 60 plaintiffs, specifically cites four protests between May 30 and Aug. 15.
A CPD spokesman referred the Tribune’s inquiry to the city’s Law Department. A spokeswoman, Kathleen Fieweger, told the outlet that the city had not yet been served as of Thursday morning.
“But it is important to remember that these are allegations at this stage and not proof,” Fieweger said in a statement. “We will review the complaint thoroughly, and each allegation it contains, once we have been served and respond through the courts as appropriate.”
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Chicago and other U.S. cities over the summer following the death of Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer was seen kneeling on his neck for roughly nine minutes.
The video of Floyd’s death in late May set off Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and racial injustice across the U.S. Some demonstrations turned violent, leading to looting and mass arrests.
Two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Amika Tendaji and Jasson Perez, told The Chicago Tribune that they had decided to visit an anti-police gathering on May 31 in the city's Hyde Park neighborhood. The event was supposed to be mellow, and Tendaji brought her daughter and nephew.
“People began saying hello to their neighbors, presumably not seeing them in a while, and just chatting,” Tendaji said.
She said the event was beginning to wrap up when CPD began forcing the crowd to leave the neighborhood in a specific direction, even though participants had parked in other areas. Eventually, officers and protesters began to clash, and Tendaji told the outlet that she was bruised and beaten.
She said she was surprised by the aggressive behavior of police in broad daylight.
“These are armed, trained folks who have a duty to stand down, to make things safe and to calm and to de-escalate situations,” Tendaji said.
Perez, who arrived separately, said he tried to intervene and prevent officers from beating his friends with batons when he himself was struck, suffering a concussion and a gash on his head that required multiple staples.
Perez told the Tribune that his head injuries have left lasting symptoms, like nausea triggered by coffee and other foods.
“I was just like, man, they’re just in a mode. They’re upset about something,” Perez recalled of police.
This week's lawsuit comes days after Chicago’s civilian police investigative agency disclosed more than 500 complaints of misconduct have been filed against CPD officers since the demonstrations began in late May.
The Tribune reported that at least eight police officers who responded to the protests were stripped of their powers pending investigations, but officials are staying mum as to why.