Federal Court Allows Protesters’ First Amendment Suit Against Violent Boston Cops To Continue

from the cops-are-rioting dept

A lawsuit filed by four protesters against three Boston police officers can move forward, following a federal judge’s determination that the cops’ counterarguments were too ridiculous to be granted credence.

The plaintiffs were participating in one of thousands of protests that erupted following the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer. According to the complaint, the protesters were beaten or pepper sprayed (or both) by the officers, who were policing the anti-police violence protest.

There’s a Fourth Amendment claim alleging excessive force. And there’s a First Amendment retaliation claim, which is what this decision [PDF] deals with. According to the plaintiffs, the officers’ violent actions were handed out in retribution for the protest’s subject matter: police violence. Apparently, the officers decided to prove the protesters’ point by brutalizing them for daring to speak up against violent retribution by police officers.

The cops tried to have the lawsuit dismissed. But the court doesn’t care for their arguments at all. First, the officers admit the plaintiffs have satisfied two of three elements needed to move forward with a First Amendment retaliation claim (that the protest was protected by the First Amendment and that the allegations are more than adequate to sustain a chilling effect claim).

As for the third prong, the cops had this to say:

The thrust of the Officer Defendants’ motions to dismiss Plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims is that the Amended Complaint (1) fails to state that curbing Plaintiffs’ participation in the protests was the motivating or but-for factor in their uses of force and (2) does not allege that the Officer Defendants even knew the Plaintiffs participated in the protest.

The court finds the second argument patently ridiculous.

The first argument, though perhaps colorable, is not appropriate for determination on the pleadings, and the second argument strains credulity.

The circumstances under which the alleged harms took place make it clear the police were responding to a protest that criticized excessive force deployment by police officers, especially against minorities. That’s sufficient to raise a claim the content matter could have been the rationale for the cops’ violent response. In addition, evidence on the record shows nothing the protesters did should have provoked such a violent response.

Here, the chronology of events, the location of each incident, and all other surrounding circumstances, plainly allow for a reasonable inference that each of the Officer Defendants would have known the Plaintiffs were protestors and that they used force against them for that reason. Nothing in the record thus far, which includes photos of the Plaintiffs with their arms up and backing away from officers, provides a plausible non-retaliatory motive for the Officer Defendants’ use of physical force against the Plaintiffs. Further, because the uses of force against Ackers, Hall, and Chambers-Maher occurred while the officers were being openly recorded, it would be reasonable to infer that the civilians’ filming of the officers formed an unlawful retaliatory motive for the use of force.

To plead ignorance during the pleadings beggars belief, the court says.

Put simply, the Officer Defendants’ argument that they could not have known that the Plaintiffs participated in the protest is untenable. Based on the record currently before the Court, it is evident that each one of these incidents occurred while the BPD was seeking to disperse protesters.

The case can continue, allowing for more examination of the facts by the court and a jury (if the city chooses not to settle). The city is also still in the mix. The court refuses to dismiss the Monell claims alleging inadequate oversight of BPD use of force, as well as a refusal to hold police officials or officers accountable for serious misconduct.

As the court notes, the federal system is currently “flooded” with similar First Amendment retaliation claims against police officers who seemingly engaged in retaliatory violence against anti-police violence protesters. It’s unlikely every lawsuit will succeed, but the court notes it is completely reasonable to infer excessive force deployment against peaceful protesters was retaliatory. While many protests target other government agencies, the George Floyd protests specifically targeted police officers and their tendency to use violence to solve problems. That made it personal for far too many officers. And, as these officers are finding out, that makes their violence a constitutional violation.

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Comments on “Federal Court Allows Protesters’ First Amendment Suit Against Violent Boston Cops To Continue”

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26 Comments
ECA (profile) says:

So who were you trying to hit?

“Officer Defendants’ argument that they could not have known that the Plaintiffs participated in the protest is untenable.”

NO comment needed? You were there for the Protest, and you aimed to hit someone NOT involved???(???)
Which would you rather defend yourself from? Attacking the protesters doing Something, or those that had little to do with it, except Watch the parade?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

There seems to still be a number of corner case issue on the ‘new’ site, especially regarding comments.

I’ve noticed that when I post comment it isn’t immediately visible on the page, but the articles listed comment count does increase.

It also seems that under some circumstances replies may be switched to top-level comments (even when comment being replied to wasn’t removed as spam).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Yours is currently the third comment, and the second is timed 5 mins before yours. I’ve seen the incorrect count before, but suspect it’s just a timing issue – the count gets updated much more quickly than the post is displayed.

mildly annoying for those of us who look at the count to see if there’s anything been added.

“Trending posts” not being updated – now that’s a bug

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Confusing processes?

I won’t say anything about the police. The article alone skips over much of what would be needed to properly support or condemn pepper spray. And bearings isn’t backed in the text; “or” being a key word there.

For so long, people supporting the protestors have claimed the violence that happened was not via the protestors. Despite the shirts and colours and signs and standing next to “actual” protestors. Setting fires, breaking windows, theft to the level of larceny. Smashing cars, burning buildings.

But these weren’t actual protestors, so says the claims. These were other people.
Yet here the judge says those in a protest are assumed protestors.

So those hurt by the police (with or without justification) are claimed protestors? And those who in the thicke of action during protests who committed crimes are not?

Laughable! Pathetic.
Maybe someone comes along and sees reality. There are bad cops. There are bad protestors.

Now can we start doing something about the criminal aspects of both sides rather than place our political attitudes against reality?!!!

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DBA Phillip Cross says:

Not true, for reasons I have repeatedly stated. Wait a minute–between all that ACTUAL SPAM that you should ACTUALLY flag–you AC’s spend time tag-spamming me. I can’t tell you and spam one from another–Thing 1, Thing 2…head spinning now, where’s my Grey Goose?

I feel like Amber Heard and you will appeal this reality for the next decade, but who knows? For now, at least JOHNNY WINS!

And he–like myself–is in the red, but in a good way.

OOOOOH, tha-at makes you incels mad doesn’t it!?

Anonymous Coward says:

We flag your “comments” because they add nothing valuable to the debate. If you don’t like it, stop accusing people of faking autism and pretending to have psychological disorders. Add something valuable without adding a load of garbage.

OOOOOH, tha-at makes you incels mad, doesn’t it!?

Usually when someone talks to themselves, we say they’re losing their minds. Not you, though, you’re just boring.

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