Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The city of Pittsburgh, Police Chief Nate Harper and a number of police officers are being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for arrests that took place September 25, 2009, on the last day of the G20 Summit. ACLU Pennsylvania Legal Director Vic Walczak announced the federal suit at Schenely Plaza in Oakland, the site of the protest and subsequent arrests. According to the brief, police declared the peaceful demonstration unlawful and issued an order to disperse. But Walczak says police then prevented protesters from leaving the area, "when they tried to leave there was nowhere to go...one term used by someone that we thought was descriptive is they were 'ping pongs,'" bouncing from one side of the plaza to another trying to get out but prevented from doing so by lines of officers in riot gear. The lawsuit lists 25 plaintiffs, including Carnegie Mellon University student Casey Brander, who says she was arrested on the lawn near the Cathedral of Learning after attempting to leave the area. She says she was detained for 19 hours and says many people were physically abused. But even without physical abuse, she says it was mentally exhausting, "especially when you're constantly being taunted. Right from my arrest when I was getting frisked on the lawn, an officer told me I was going to be his girlfriend, officers were calling us hot and calling us derogatory names...I was pretty traumatized by it." Other plaintiffs who attended today's announcement talked about being denied medication, being pepper sprayed without provocation and being pelted with pepper balls. All of the criminal charges against the plaintiffs were withdrawn or dismissed. The ACLU alleges violation of the First Amendment right to assembly, retaliatory arrests and a violation of the Fourth Amendment protections against false arrest as well as the use of excessive force.