G-20 protest groups file amended suit against Pittsburgh police for violating rights

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy websites] announced [press release] Monday that they are extending and continuing a lawsuit against the City of Pittsburgh for allegedly violating the rights of two protest groups during September's Group of 20 (G-20) Summit [official website; JURIST news archive]. According to the amended complaint [text, PDF] filed Friday in the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania [official website], Pittsburgh police officers repeatedly violated the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment [text] rights of Seeds of Peace and Three Rivers Climate Convergence (3RCC) [advocacy websites] by "deliberately adopt[ing] a strategy to harass, intimidate, discourage and ultimately prevent the plaintiffs ... from exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly." The lawsuit names as defendants Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Director of Public Safety Michael Huss, Chief of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Nathan Harper and Assistant Chief William Bochter, Assistant Director of Pittsburgh City Parks Michael Radley, and police officers to be named later. The suit seeks a declaration that defendants violated plantiffs' rights, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

The ACLU-PA and CCR originally filed the lawsuit [JURIST report] in September. Both groups claimed that police searched and seized members of the groups and their property and that police retaliated against members for exercising their right to free speech. Seeds of Peace also claimed that police detained their bus without cause, illegally searched and impounded the bus, and conducted a warrantless raid on the property on which the bus was being stored. Pittsburgh has also been criticized for its handling of other protesters. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) [advocacy website] questioned [JURIST report] the methods used by police during protests in the Lawrenceville and Oakland [JURIST reports] sections of Pittsburgh and also noted that individual officers lacked visible identification, frustrating the work of NLG and ACLU legal observers. Ravenstahl has, however, praised police for showing restraint [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report] and credited them with providing for a peaceful summit.

 

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