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September 18, 2018

PHOENIX—The individuals and organizations that recently sued the City of Phoenix, Chief of Phoenix Police Jeri Williams, and a number of Phoenix police officers for violating the rights of thousands of peaceful anti-Trump protesters last year asked a judge today to issue an emergency order prohibiting Phoenix police from taking similar unlawful action during President Trump’s possible upcoming visit.

“We feel compelled to ask a judge to step in especially because city leadership’s praise of the Phoenix Police Department’s violent actions in August 2017 all but guarantees the same violent conduct will be repeated,” said Kathy Brody, ACLU of Arizona legal director. “People are afraid to attend protests in Phoenix now because of how police behaved last year. We believe that people will be more willing to express their anti-Trump views if a court intervenes.”

“The Phoenix police association’s response to the filing of the lawsuit—which was to characterize the peaceful plaintiffs in this action as radical, leftist, anarchists—also virtually ensures this animus towards the plaintiffs will result in the same violence being used to silence them again at the upcoming protest unless the court intervenes,” said Cindy Pánuco, an attorney with Hadsell Stormer Renick LLP.

The plaintiffs in Puente v. City of Phoenix, community organizations Puente and Poder in Action, and four individuals who will represent a class of people whose First Amendment protected viewpoints critical of the president were violently suppressed by Phoenix police, are asking a court to:

  • Prevent Phoenix police from dispersing anti-Trump protestors or forcefully interfering with or disrupting their exercise of First Amendment rights to speak and protest, and to associate with others with similar views, unless: (1) there is a valid and documented justification for so doing such as a threat of imminent serious harms to others because of the actions of numerous protestors; if such actions are done by a small number of protestors they may be isolated and the protest continued; and (2) the assembly has been publicly declared to be unlawful on valid and documented grounds; and (3) adequate audible warnings have been given in English and Spanish about how to disperse and where the protest can re-convene; and (4) adequate audible warnings are given about the planned use of force by Defendants or their agents in English and Spanish before any force is used against any protestors; and
  • Prevent Phoenix police from using projectile or chemical weapons against protestors in a manner contrary to legal requirements, manufacturers’ directions, and PPD policy, including not aiming them at upper bodies or heads, nor firing at close range of any protestors.

On August 22, 2017, Phoenix police officers ended a peaceful anti-Trump protest when they began attacking protesters with heavy weaponry including pepper balls, tear gas canisters, and foam batons. Phoenix police fired more than 590 projectiles indiscriminately and many Arizonans went home from the protest with physical and emotional trauma because of police actions.

Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit earlier this month asking the court to prohibit Phoenix police from using excessive force against protesters in the future and are seeking financial damages for all people whose First Amendment rights of protest and assembly were violated by the Phoenix Police Department’s violent dispersal of protesters.

“We have no confidence in the leadership of the Phoenix Police Department when they continue to deny wrongdoing, duck accountability for their actions, and blame the victims of police violence,” said Viri Hernandez, executive director of Poder in Action. “We are asking the court to do the job that the police won't do—protect our rights and our lives."

“The Trump administration continues to destroy families every day and it is our moral imperative to voice our opposition to its policies,” said Carlos Garcia, executive director of Puente Arizona. “During the last presidential visit, the Phoenix Police Department attacked us without warning and with a plan to shut down our protest. The police should serve to protect the city’s residents, not Trump’s agenda.”

In addition to the ACLU of Arizona and Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP, plaintiffs are represented by civil rights attorney Dan Pochoda.

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