A group of Black Lives Matter protesters in Seattle are claiming that they’re being priced out of their civil rights by the prohibitive costs of defending themselves against police violence.
The lawsuit filed Monday in federal court alleges that the repeated use of force by the Seattle Police Department has made it impossible for them to exercise their right to protest without pricey personal protective gear.
“Because protesters now must purchase expensive equipment to be assured that they will be able to protest safely, the indiscriminate use of weapons by SPD implicates equal protection,” the lawsuit says.
The five plaintiffs — Jessica Benton, Shelby Bryant, Anne Marie Cavanaugh, Alyssa Garrison and Clare Thomas — allege helmets, gas masks, protective clothing, goggles, gloves, boots, umbrellas and other gear are needed to fight off police pepper spray, less-lethal projectiles and other crowd-dispersal measures.
They claim they have been the victims of “indiscriminate” police violence during protests in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, which was home to the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, known as CHOP, on June 25.
The suit seeks a temporary restraining order prohibiting the department from using force or crowd dispersal munitions.
“Because the Seattle Police Department has acted above and outside the law in dispensing its unbridled force, and the City has failed to prevent same, the government effect is to establish a de facto protest tax: individual protesters subjected to SPD’s unabated and indiscriminate violence now must purchase cost-prohibitive gear to withstand munitions — even when peacefully protesting — as a condition to exercising their right to free speech and peaceable assembly,” the suit said.
A spokesperson for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office said it will “look into these new claims and intend(s) to defend the City in this matter.”
With Post wires