A mother and daughter are suing the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, alleging that Minneapolis police officers beat them with nightsticks during ongoing protests in November over the fatal shooting of a black man, according to a lawsuit obtained by the Star Tribune.
Jamar Clark’s death sparked tense “Black Lives Matter” protests that fit the shooting into a longstanding pattern of police abuse in the city. At least one of the officers implicated in Clark’s death was previously “sued for police brutality by a black man who alleged that Ringgenberg had choked him,” City Pages reported.
Many protesters set up camp outside the Fourth Precinct police station demanding answers. By some witness accounts, Clark was handcuffed when he was shot and killed during a midday altercation on the street. The police department insisted that Clark was not handcuffed and that he was fighting with cops.
The lawsuit alleged that police used excessive force on a group of ten peaceful protesters, including the two plaintiffs Carrie Athanasselis and her daughter Camille Williams, who stood in an alley near the side entrance of the police station, away from the general protest encampment. Athanasselis says she only went to the precinct to check on her daughter and wasn’t actually participating in the protest.
Officers asked protesters to move back to allow a white van through the alley. The plaintiffs said that one police officer called to “push em this way” while another one shouted, “push em” before forcefully pushing protesters, using nightsticks to hit Athanasselis and Williams’ faces and bodies. An officer reportedly threw Williams’ phone to the ground and hit it with a nightstick.
“For whatever reason, the cops decided that they weren’t moving fast enough, and decided to start pushing and beating them,” Joshua Williams, lawyer for the pair told the Star Tribune. He is not related to Camille Williams. “From our perspective and we think from a constitutional standpoint as well, using any kind of force in this situation simply wasn’t justified. Let alone hitting my clients in the face with nightsticks and breaking their phone.”
The plaintiffs said that they had to seek treatment at the emergency room several hours later. Athanasselis and Williams insisted that they were “cooperative” in moving back when asked and “did not do anything during the incident that would cause a person to use force against them.” They also stated that the white van was parked in a way to hide the beating from being seen by other protesters and the media.
The lawsuit is seeking damages in excess of $50,000.
In the days following Clark’s death, police may have used excessive tactics on other protesters too. Police doused water on a campfire set near 18 tents outside the precinct entrance, which was later relit by protesters. And at night, when attempting to clear the occupation, they shot chemical irritants at protesters “who tried to keep them from removing the tarps,” Twin Cities reported. One cop even pointed what appeared to be a gas-launching gun at Rep. Keith Ellison’s (D-MN) son who was peacefully protesting, leading the congressman to tweet that the “photo was agonizing for me to see.”