Criminal Justice Press Release

07.12.17

ACLU Files Lawsuit Against Columbus Police for Excessive Use of Force on Demonstrators

Police Car

COLUMBUS, OH—Today the ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit on behalf of three individuals who were pepper sprayed at close range while peacefully demonstrating in downtown Columbus on January 30th against the federal government’s Muslim Ban.

“Columbus Police followed our clients—peaceful demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights—and sprayed them directly in the face from not more than a few feet away. This unconstitutional use of force is part of a pattern of police misconduct,” said Elizabeth Bonham, staff attorney at the ACLU of Ohio. “ Police video shows that officers maliciously targeted our clients, even joking about who would ‘get to’ spray each person.”

The January 30th protest came two days after President Trump signed his Muslim Ban executive order, blocking individuals from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. Several thousand people, many of them Muslim youth, gathered in the intersection of South and High Streets to sing, chant, and pray. At one point, the group knelt in silent prayer.

“Columbus has a practice of overreacting to peaceful demonstrators and using excessive force,” said Mike Brickner, senior policy director at ACLU of Ohio. “In this current political era, protests will continue to happen regularly. Columbus police must be prepared to de-escalate situations, use force only as necessary, and proactively support demonstrators’ free speech rights – not assault peaceful individuals like they did on January 30.”

The lawsuit was filed in Federal District Court for Southern Ohio.

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Read the full complaint.