The city of Detroit is suing Black Lives Matter protesters after a group of organizers sued the local government.
Detroit’s suit alleges that demonstrators who participated in the racial justice protests this summer were a part of a “civil conspiracy” in which they attempted “to disturb the peace, engage in disorderly conduct, incite riots, destroy public property,” and resist police orders, among other “illegal acts.” The suit was filed in September, about a month after activists filed their own suit, alleging Detroit police officers “repeatedly responded with violence,” according to the Intercept.
The city has accused the protesters of defaming police officers, although the city isn’t suing for defamation outright.
It also claims the protesters, specifically the umbrella collective, Detroit Will Breathe, shouldn’t be considered as protected under the First Amendment because “the protests in Detroit have repeatedly turned violent, endangering the lives of police and the public.” The city has pointed to officers injured during protests to support this claim, which it says include “cracked vertebrae, lacerations, and concussions,” however, the city does not specify how each injury occurred or who injured them.
The filings allege multiple times that demonstrators were “destroying and defacing public property,” however only two examples are given, a broken police car window and a spray-painted statue.
Detroit Police Department Chief James Craig, who was named as a defendant in the protesters’ suit, has called the demonstrators “criminals” and “misguided radicals” who “incite violence.” He has also accused the group of being “coordinated,” “planned,” and “financed” by “a Marxist ideology” trying to “undermine our government as we know it,” in an interview with Fox & Friends in September.
The protesters’ original lawsuit included detailed allegations and led a judge to grant a temporary order designed to limit police officers’ use of force “including the use of striking weapons, chemical agents, and rubber bullets against demonstrators, medical support personnel, and legal observers.”
One protester participating in the suit alleges she was shot in the chest with a rubber bullet, piercing her skin. She alleges it happened after she was tear-gassed and beaten with a riot shield without provocation and says she suffered panic attacks in the months after it allegedly took place. Another female protester claimed she experienced migraines for weeks after an officer pushed her to the pavement and trampled her, during which she suffered a head injury. Other protesters detail claims of violence resulting in a fractured pelvis, a broken rib, and a collapsed lung.
Many city officials and leaders, including Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, have denounced the city’s countersuit.
“It’s just another blatant attempt to silence and intimidate us,” said Lauren Rosen, a plaintiff and organizer with Detroit Will Breathe, according to the Intercept. “Except now … they want to do it through the courts instead of in the streets.”