The city of Detroit has sued Black Lives Matter demonstrators, claiming that the protesters organized a ‘civil conspiracy’ and defamed law enforcement and city officials in hopes of inciting violence.
Detroit Will Breathe (DWB) activists filed a lawsuit against the city government and the Detroit Police Department in August claiming cops ‘repeatedly responded with violence’ when they took to the streets.
In September, a temporary order was issued by a court to prevent DPD from using batons, shields, rubber bullets and other use of force.
The city’s countersuit claims that DWB ‘illegally, maliciously, and wrongfully conspired with one another with the intent to and for the illegal purpose of disturbing the peace, engaging in disorderly conduct, inciting riots, destroying public property, resisting or obstructing officers in charge of duty, and committing acts of violence against Counter-Plaintiffs and DPD officers.’
Detroit Will Breathe (DWB) activist launched a lawsuit against the city government and the Detroit Police Department in August. In September, a court issued a temporary order against the police
Detroit launched a countersuit against the activist. In addition to general and compensatory damages, the city is seeking a declaratory judgement that would state that DWB demonstrators defamed Mayor Michael Duggan, Chief James Craig (pictured), and police officers in the department
It also categorically denies every allegation presented by the initial lawsuit drafted by the activists.
In addition to general and compensatory damages, the city is seeking a declaratory judgement that would state that DWB demonstrators defamed Mayor Michael Duggan, Chief James Craig, and police officers in the department.
The countersuit is a fairly bold move and has already been met with criticism from local politicians, including Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), who called the countersuit ‘an unthinkable assault on constitutional rights,’ the Intercept reports.
Protesters have been backed by national legal groups in their response to the countersuit and are also seeking an appeal with the City Council to cut the funding for the city’s litigation. One council member has reported vocalized her opposition to the countersuit.
The countersuit mentions a number of protest where the city said had turned violent and left officers injured when items were hurled at them.
Nakia Wallace, a leader in Detroit Will Breathe, is named in the counter complaint as having ‘falsely characterized [Detroit police] officers’ by tweeting about the ‘murderous and brutal nature of the Detroit Police Department’
Nakia Wallace, a leader in Detroit Will Breathe, is named in the counter complaint as having ‘falsely characterized [Detroit police] officers’ by tweeting about the ‘murderous and brutal nature of the Detroit Police Department.’
The suit also takes issue with Wallace’s account of being held in a ‘chokehold’ while getting arrested. Despite photos showing an officer with her arm tightly wrapped around Wallace’s neck, the city claims the officer ‘lost her hold, which caused her arms to momentarily touch Wallace’s neck.’
They also claim that the amount of time that the officer had their arm around Wallace’s neck ‘was far too brief’ to fit the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of a chokehold. The city claims that DWB’s ‘improper use of this incendiary term demonstrates their desire to falsely alarm the public and the Court.’
‘She took me down with very clear intentions — I couldn’t breathe,’ Wallace explained to The Intercept. She added that the denial was just one of many ‘ridiculous arguments you would not expect somebody who works for city government to make.’
The city also claims that DWB promoted a ‘false narrative to rile the public’ about the fatal July shooting of 20-year-old Hakim Littleton.
They claimed in the countersuit that bodycam and dashcam footage ‘shows the man fire a gun at an officer before police shot him,’ negating to mention that video also showed officers repeatedly shooting Littleton after he was tackled to the ground and had his gun kicked away.
Jatzen Bass was also named in the countersuit, with the city highlighting that he jumped on a police SUV during June 28 demonstrations to stop police vehicles from speeding through a group protesters. Bass, who was detained, then took to Facebook to declare that police tried to ‘kill me and others’ during the protests.
Besides the SUV, the countersuit also names a statue of a slave owner that was vandalized by protesters.
Organizer Tristan Taylor chants with the crowd in downtown Detroit on Sunday, May 3. Taylor is named in the countersuit
The city of Detroit also claims that DWB members ‘falsely’ described the ‘mentality’ of the police department as that of ‘the wild, wild West.’
‘While Counter-Defendants have attempted to characterize their protests as “peaceful,” the protests in Detroit have repeatedly turned violent, endangering the lives of police and the public,’ the city asserts in its countersuit.
They added: ‘Counter-Defendants have been captured on video hurling dangerous projectiles at police officers, blocking busy streets and school buses, encouraging violent behavior, screaming loudly in the faces of DPD officers, refusing to follow clear and lawful DPD directives and destroying and defacing public property.’
Because of this, the countersuit declares that the protests should not be protected under the First Amendment.
In October, Detroit Will Breathe filed a motion to dismiss the city’s litigation. That is still being litigated.
‘The law is very well settled that when you’re going to bring a claim, you need to be able to back it up, and you need to be able to back it up on its face,’ said Amanda Ghannam, a lawyer representing Detroit Will Breathe through the National Lawyers Guild. ‘They’re just going with these really broad brush strokes trying to paint the entire movement as lawless and violent.’