PHOENIX — The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona filed a lawsuit today against the Phoenix Police Department because of the agency’s refusal to release public records concerning the large, peaceful protests of President Trump’s rally in August. The protests ended after the Phoenix Police Department aggressively and indiscriminately used chemical agents and other violent tactics to disperse the protesters.
"The ACLU of Arizona received many, many complaints from people who witnessed and suffered from the Phoenix Police Department's extreme tactics against peaceful protesters," said ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Kathy Brody. "The department failed to protect the First Amendment rights of demonstrators that night. Now, the public deserves to see the critical records documenting the Phoenix Police Department's actions. The department must stop withholding the information about how and why officers used violent force and sent many Arizonans home with cuts, bruises, and other injuries."
On August 22, President Trump held a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center. A large number of protesters peacefully exercised their First Amendment rights outside the Convention Center for hours. At about 8:30 p.m., without any warning, Phoenix Police Department officers shot “pepper balls,” which release a gaseous irritant, deployed pepper spray, and fired rubber bullets into the crowds, which included children and people with mobility and respiratory issues.
The ACLU of Arizona submitted two public-records requests to the Phoenix Police Department related to the August 22 protest, with the first request submitted more than 12 weeks ago. The Phoenix Police Department has refused to provide any records in response to those requests, but has admitted that it has gathered records responsive to the ACLU of Arizona’s requests, and has publicly used those records to refute claims of police malfeasance during the protest.
The ACLU of Arizona’s requests sought video recordings of the rally and protests taken or obtained by the Phoenix Police Department, as well as Phoenix Police Department communications, training materials, reports, weapons inventories, and policies related to officers’ actions at the protest.
“The Police Department’s story about how and why they used excessive force against the protesters has changed over and over again,” said ACLU of Arizona Staff Attorney Darrell Hill. “Under the law, the public needs to be able to promptly see the Police Department’s own records so that we can judge for ourselves whether officers acted appropriately. We have a public records law so that we can all monitor the performance of government officials.”
The ACLU of Arizona’s public records lawsuit filed today against the Phoenix Police Department is available here: https://www.acluaz.org/sites/default/files/2017-11-21_complaint_-_with_exhibits_a-g.pdf.