District Judge John J. Tuchi has issued an order certifying two separate classes in Puente v. Phoenix. The group of plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including two community organizations and four individuals who were silenced, tear-gassed, and pepper-sprayed during the August 2017 protest in downtown Phoenix, AZ, has now been expanded to include possibly thousands of other individuals whose voices were violently suppressed by the illegal use of force by the Phoenix police.
“Allowing this case to go forward as a class action lawsuit is a huge victory for all individuals whose First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated when Phoenix police unlawfully dispersed peaceful protesters on the night of August 22, 2017,” said American Civil Liberties Union American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona Executive Director Alessandra Soler. “Phoenix police used indiscriminate force in violation of many protesters’ rights and this decision will allow those voices to be heard as the case proceeds. This department has a pattern of inflicting harm on our most marginalized communities and it’s time they are held accountable for their actions. We must ensure that, in the future, the right to peacefully protest is protected.”
“This is huge milestone in Puente v. Phoenix. The courts understood that the Phoenix Police Department misused non-lethal chemical weapons against protesters exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Jovana Renteria, legal director for Puente Human Rights Movement
The ACLU of Arizona and the law firm of Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP filed the lawsuit against the City of Phoenix, Chief of Phoenix Police Jeri Williams, and Phoenix police officers on September 4, 2018, for violating the rights of thousands of peaceful anti-Trump protesters gathered during an August 2017 rally held by President Donald Trump.
“The culture of violence within the Phoenix Police department grows more pronounced every day. The violent manner in which they reacted on the night of the anti-Trump protest is just another example of how out of control this department is and it’s past time to rein them in,” said Viri Hernández, executive director of Poder in Action. “This type of behavior is unacceptable, and we must make sure that it never happens again.”
In the October 4th decision, Judge Tuchi also allowed one class of plaintiffs to seek damages. Individuals whose constitutionally protected activity was unlawfully ended and who were dispersed by the use of force (such as gas, pepper spray, pepper bullets, or other chemical agents) will now be part of a class that can seek money damages. Judge Tuchi’s decision also allows a class of plaintiffs to seek injunctive relief that would involve, for instance, future changes to Phoenix Police Department policies and practices to ensure that people will be exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly in Phoenix without fear of being attacked by the police.
“This is huge milestone in Puente v. Phoenix. The courts understood that the Phoenix Police Department misused non-lethal chemical weapons against protesters exercising their First Amendment rights,” said Jovana Renteria, legal director for Puente Human Rights Movement. “As a community, we celebrate this victory and continue to move forward with the case to ensure protestors have the right to assemble without fear of retaliation or violence.”
In addition to the ACLU of Arizona and Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP, plaintiffs also are represented by Kaye, McLane, Bednarski & Litt, LLP; Goodwin Procter LLP; Mitchell, Stein, Carey & Chapman PC; and Schonbrun Desimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman, LLP.
The class certification order is available here.
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