A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle alleges that protesters in the Black Lives Matter movement are being priced out of their civil rights by the prohibitive costs of defending themselves against police violence.
The Seattle Times Reports:
The five plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that the purchase of helmets, gas masks, protective clothing, goggles, gloves, boots, umbrellas and other gear they say are needed to fend off police pepper spray, less-lethal projectiles and other crowd-dispersal tools has impinged on their civil right to peacefully protest.
All five — Jessica Benton, Shelby Bryant, Anne Marie Cavanaugh, Alyssa Garrison, and Clare Thomas — say they were the victims of “indiscriminate” police violence during protests on Capitol Hill on June 25. They claim that repeated use of force by SPD during more than six weeks of civil unrest over systemic racism and police brutality against people of color has made it impossible to exercise their right to gather and protest without personal protective gear, which isn’t cheap.
“Because protesters now must purchase expensive equipment to be assured that they will be able to protest safely, the indiscriminate use of weapons by SPD implicates equal protection,” the lawsuit alleges.
“Because the Seattle Police Department has acted above and outside the law in
dispensing its unbridled force, and the City has failed to prevent same, the
government effect is to establish a de facto protest tax: individual protesters
subjected to SPD’s unabated and indiscriminate violence now must purchase cost-prohibitive gear to withstand munitions — even when peacefully protesting — as a condition to exercising their right to free speech and peaceable assembly,” wrote attorney Talitha Hazelton of Renton, who filed the lawsuit Monday.
The Seattle City Attorney’s Office will “look into these new claims and intend(s) to defend the City in this matter,” said spokesperson Dan Nolte.
From The Seattle Times