Detroit, MI – A group that sued Detroit police claiming their First Amendment rights were violated by officers during protests was countersued by the city.
The city of Detroit wanted protest organizers with Detroit Will Breathe to be held accountable for damages caused by the demonstrations they organized, the Detroit News reported.
The activist group has been organizing marches in Detroit for more than 150 days and there have been countless clashes between police and protesters during that time.
Riot gear-clad Detroit police officers have arrested dozens of activists and deployed tear gas multiple times, the Detroit News reported.
Protesters have called for Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s resignation and denounced his officers’ handling of the violent protests.
In July, Chief Craig said that Detroit’s violent protests hadn’t become riots with looting and burning like in many cities because his police department doesn’t retreat.
The chief told FOX News over the summer that he had learned his lesson during his time on the Los Angeles Police Department and referenced the Rodney King riots.
“We don’t retreat here in Detroit,” the police chief told Tucker Carlson on July 28. “We’re just not gonna do it.”
“You saw the images… of streets where there was lawlessness, looting, burning,” he said. “No sign of police officers. We weren’t giving up ground to the radicals. We just didn’t do it.”
“I saw what it was like after Rodney King in Los Angeles,” Chief Craig explained.
“And so, but not only that, Detroiters,” he continued. “Detroiters are fed up with these radical protests. I’m not to talking about these peaceful protests … [I mean] these misguided radicals that have tried to incite violence in our city.”
“They said, ‘We’re not going to put up with it.’ And so we got a couple of things. We got a great police department, great leadership, but we have a community that stands with us and said, ‘enough is enough,” the chief bragged to FOX News.
Protesters who claimed to have been injured as a result of Detroit PD’s crowd-control tactics filed a complaint alleging officers had violated their right to free speech, the Detroit News reported.
“I continue to stand by the Detroit Police Department’s actions,” Chief Craig said Friday. “We’re investigating any claims of wrongdoing and will continue to do that.”
The city’s counterclaim seeks to hold Detroit Will Breathe and its protesters liable for civil conspiracy.
Detroit Will Breathe’s attorney moved to dismiss the claim against the activist group, the Detroit News reported.
On Friday, the ACLU of Michigan filed an amicus brief in the activists’ favor.
“What Detroit Will Breathe has said is protected speech; they’re exercising their right of dissent, their right to express their dissatisfaction with the current state of politics and policing in Detroit,” ACLU senior staff attorney Phil Mayor said. “The city’s attempt to hold them liable for individual acts at the protest that weren’t committed by the individual protesters who are in a lawsuit is an attempt to suppress their speech.”
“It’s an attempt to manipulate the judicial process to do what police violence in the streets could not, which is to silence protesters,” Mayor added, according to the Detroit News.
In September, a federal judge in Detroit denied a motion by the city and its police department to ban protest activities by Detroit Will Breathe that had been deemed violent.
Detroit police were struck by projectiles and bottle rockets during recent violent protests in the city.
Police told the judge that officers “had lasers pointed in their eyes, and were attacked by protesters” before the judge finally issued a temporary restraining order, according to the Detroit News.
The city’s lawsuit against Detroit Will Breathe said the organization made social media posts that incited violence and more protests.