LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Seven people who took part in recent Black Lives Matter protests have filed a lawsuit against Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
The lawsuit also names Sheriff Joe Lombardo, Lt. Kurt McKenzie, Officer Tabatha Dickson and 14 unnamed officers and refers to protests that took place on May 30, June 1 and June 13. When contacted for a response on the lawsuit, Metro Police said “We do not comment on pending litigation.”
The lawsuit alleges that police placed demonstrators in physical danger and injured injured them through the use of “reckless” tactics which included “kettling” (i.e., the confinement of demonstrators or protestors in a small area as a method of crowd control), the use of tear gas or other gases capable of irritation and/or disorientation, and the use of capsicum projectiles or “pepperballs.”
It alleges that the tactics were not only targeting protesters engaged in looting and other breaches of the peace, but legal observers, journalists and those who didn’t pose a threat to police or the public.
According to the lawsuit, one plaintiff, Lance Downes-Covington, said of the June 1 demonstration, “police geared up for battle and instigated aggression, but they had no reason to because the protesters came in peace and simply wanted to have their voices heard.”
Downes-Covington said as he and his friends sang, one of his group members was struck by pepperballs as were “people who were peacefully leaving the protest.”
Another plaintiff, Soldadera Sanchez, said she was exposed to pepperballs and tear gas in a May 30 protest and “her hearing has been damaged since that day.” She describes a situation where demonstrators were told to disperse but blocked on all sides by police.
The lawsuit alleges the Metro violated its current use of force policy which prohibits the use of pepperballs against non-violent persons. It also alleges the protesters’ rights to free speech and expression were violated and protesters were retaliated against by police when it was observed they were using cellphone video to capture what was happening.
The lawsuit, filed with McLetchie Law, is seeking damages and a permanent injunction prohibiting Metro from using “less lethal” gases or munitions against protesters who are only engaged in passive resistance.