A federal judge late Friday
temporarily banned Detroit police from using batons, shields, gas, rubber bullets, chokeholds or sound cannons against Black Lives Matter protesters .
U.S. District Court Judge Laurie Michelson partially granted a temporary restraining order Detroit Will Breathe sought when it sued the city of Detroit on Monday, alleging that police were using excessive force to stop them from exercising their free speech rights. The order will be in effect for at least 14 days and forbids police from using force without probable cause.
“It’s a win, but the fight continues,” said Jack Schulz, who filed the lawsuit for Detroit Will Breathe. “For a short period, we know that the police will not be able to use the brutal tactics they have in the past against peaceful protesters without violating a court order.”
Schulz added: “We are still seeking permanent relief from the police’s ability to be able to use these tactics.”
Police keyed on the judge’s reference to “peaceful protesters,” and said they have only clashed with demonstrators after they broke the law. Detroit Police Chief James Craig said the judge’s order will not change police tactics.
“We’re going to continue to do our jobs the way we’ve done it,” Craig said. “We respect peaceful protesters. We understand the judge’s order and we’ll make sure the protesters understand if there’s any aggression or violation of law, they will get ample notice like we’ve done in the past.”
Detroit Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia, the city’s top attorney, said in a statement: “The parameters laid out in the order are very consistent with current DPD policy.”
“We are disappointed the order was entered without an evidentiary hearing because we believe when the evidence is heard, the police actions to date will be deemed justified,” Garcia added.
The city has until Sept. 18 to respond to Detroit Will Breathe’s request for a preliminary injunction that would extend the ban granted in the temporary restraining order. Michelson scheduled a meeting on Sept. 22 at which she is hoping both sides can “agree upon protocols to govern their conduct during the pendency of the litigation.
“The Court believes that protocols addressing the following topics may enable all parties to achieve their desired goals: announcement of protest norms by Detroit Will Breathe to its members; arrest protocol; de-escalation protocol, and a protocol for reporting by neutral observers.”
If that fails, Michelson scheduled two to three days for a hearing on Detroit Will Breathe’s request for a preliminary injunction. That hearing would begin on Sept. 29.
Michelson has been urging both sides to work out their differences since Tuesday. That’s when she first ordered them to “meet and confer to discuss a potential resolution” to Detroit Will Breathe’s request for a temporary restraining order forcing police to end some of the tactics that were used to arrest protesters on June 2, July 10 and Aug. 23. Overall, police have arrested about 200 people, primarily for violating the city’s temporary curfew, blocking traffic and disobeying the lawful order of police officers.
The lawyers spoke with the judge by phone Wednesday, and again Friday afternoon, but could not resolve their differences.
That left the decision to Michelson, who said in her Friday order that she reviewed videos on Instagram of police engaging with protesters.
“These videos, buttressed by the testimonial evidence, establishes that at least some Plaintiffs have a likelihood of success on their claims that the DPD used excessive force against them,” she wrote.
Some of the videos posted on social media show protesters in the early hours of Aug. 23 chanting at police: “We don’t see no riot here, so why are you in riot gear?” before police advance and begin arresting protesters who were blocking traffic on Woodward Avenue in the heart of downtown. Some of the protesters can be seen trying to yank comrades out of police custody. Photos also show multiple police officers grappling with individual protesters. One photo shows three police officers holding someone on the ground while another officer sprays…