Columbus Police Can't Use Force on Peaceful Protesters, Judge Rules

A protester holds a die-in in front of a row of police officers during a peaceful protest over the death of George Floyd at the State Capital building in downtown Columbus, Ohio, on June 1, 2020.
A protester holds a die-in in front of a row of police officers during a peaceful protest over the death of George Floyd at the State Capital building in downtown Columbus, Ohio, on June 1, 2020.
Photo: SETH HERALD (Getty Images)

Cops in Columbus, Ohio, have been ordered to use less threatening restraint against protesters who pose no threats to them.

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Judge Algenon L. Marbley of the Southern District of Ohio ruled Friday that police officers must stop using force against nonviolent protesters as part of a preliminary injunction denouncing police tactics the judge considered tantamount to running “amok” against demonstrators following George Floyd’s death last summer, per the Washington Post.

Marbley said the cops used “random and indiscriminately” force, unprovoked, against protesters. His ruling favored 26 plaintiffs who sued the city of Columbus last July after joining demonstrations last summer and complained that officers responded to non-threatening protesters with excessive force. The plaintiffs said that officers used pepper spray and tear gas and assaulted protesters with a sound cannon, batons, and rubber and wooden bullets.

This ruling is particularly relevant because of the recent killing of Ma’Khia Bryant, who was shot by an officer in Columbus several weeks ago immediately after Derek Chauvin was convicted of killing Floyd. Casey Goodson Jr., who was killed in Columbus in December, also comes to mind. Then there is the case of Andre Maurice Hill, also killed by cops last December. As the investigations into these killings continue, how people will be able to protest without the threat of violence will be a central issue.

Here is more background on Marbley’s ruling:

Protesters accused police of what they called “collective punishment,” responding to any person “who threw a water bottle, harassed or taunted an officer” by indiscriminately pepper-spraying or tear-gassing a group.

Marbley said the police should also restrain from using other nonlethal force tactics like the use of stun grenades, rubber bullets, wooden pellets, batons, body slams, pushing or pulling, or kettling, on nonviolent protesters.

Efforts to reach the Columbus Police Department were unsuccessful.

In a statement Saturday, Sean Walton, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led the judge’s ruling, said he welcomes Marbley’s decision.

“We are pleased that the Court recognized the truth of the overwhelming testimony, shocking videos, and heart-wrenching pictures and issued an injunction which protects the people from the police,” Walton told The Washington Post.

There was a “mountain of evidence” that showed some protesters were targeted and confronted with “less-lethal munitions’ while trying to obey police orders, Marbley ruled. The injunction also revealed video of a protester Terry Dean Hubby Jr. standing on the sidewalk when he was hit and injured by a projectile that shattered his knee.

It is hard for protesters to get justice in this racist criminal legal system, but at least they got it in this instance.

DISCUSSION

By
eoghan01

Cue the forthcoming stories about how not being able to brutalize protesters has crushed police morale, and now they’re all retiring. This ruling is great, but until there are real consequences for the officers and the department, it’s not going to be enough.