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After Lawsuit, CMPD Ordered To Temporarily Halt Use Of Force Against Peaceful Protests

Michael Falero
CMPD has used tear gas to disperse protesters, as they did in this demonstration May 30.

A North Carolina Superior Court judge on Friday ordered CMPD to temporarily halt the use of force against peaceful protests. The ruling came from a hearing that was scheduled following a lawsuit filed earlier in the day by civil rights groups against the city of Charlotte and police chief Kerr Putney's use of tear gas, flash-bang grenades and other tactics against peaceful protesters.

CMPD issued a statement on the ruling: "Many of the restrictions referenced in the order are currently prohibited under CMPD policy.  The order does however prevent the department from deploying riot control agents in gatherings that involve protesters who are damaging the property of others."

The ACLU of North Carolina, NAACP, Charlotte Uprising and other groups say CMPD violated protesters' constitutional rights in what they call "violent attacks" during the protests. Those include a June 2 incident where officers appeared to trap protesters on Fourth Street and fire tear gas and pepper balls at them. The city requested the State Bureau of Investigations to look into that incident.

“People who were marching peacefully to protest police violence were violently attacked by the police without provocation or legal cause,” Kristi Graunke, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, said in a press release. “The violence perpetrated by CMPD was a brazen violation of protesters’ constitutional rights that injured peaceful demonstrators and terrorized the community. We’re suing to halt these dangerous practices and defend people’s fundamental right to make their voices heard.”

The suit filed in state court in Charlotte seeks a temporary restraining order to block police from continuing to use these tactics on peaceful protesters. An ACLU spokeswoman said the court scheduled a hearing Friday afternoon on that request. 

CMPD said in a statement: "Our attorneys are currently reviewing the lawsuit; however out of respect for the judicial process, we’re going to refrain from commenting on pending litigation." 

The suit was filed by the ACLU, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Emancipate NC, and local lawyers. They're representing the NAACP, Charlotte Uprising, Team TruBlue, the Southeast Asian Coalition (SEAC), and four Charlotte residents -- Justin LaFrancois, William G. Adams, Jamie Marisicano and Lindsay Carlee. 

LaFrancois is the publisher of Queen City Nerve, who live-streamed the June 2 incident on social media. In a statement he said: “It had been a peaceful march – but we were met with tear gas and police in riot gear. As we were marching up 4th street, CMPD officers trapped us before pelting us with tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades. With no way out, people were panicking trying to get away from the tear gas and explosions. It was terrifying.” 

Dawn Blagrove, Executive Director of Emancipate NC, said in the press release: “CMPD’s premeditated and violent attack on people protesting police violence was a chilling reminder of the racism and brutality that pervades the institution of policing.” 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

CMPD temporary restraining order by WFAE on Scribd

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David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.