Detroit police on Friday were banned from using certain crowd control tactics against what a federal judge called “peaceful” protesters, leading the city’s police chief to note that law enforcement only engages with those who break the law in the first place.
The judge granted a temporary restraining order requested by Detroit Will Breathe that will be in effect for 14 days.
Amanda Ghannam, a lawyer representing Detroit Will Breathe, told The Detroit News that the ruling is a victory because police have “repeatedly responded with violence and hostility to the simple message that ‘black lives matter.'”
“We are relieved that Detroit Will Breathe will be able to commemorate their 100th day of protest safely and peacefully, without fear of violent retaliation or unlawful arrest by police,” she said.
Police Chief James Craig said the order by U.S. District Judge Laurie J. Michelson will have limited practical effect because police have never targeted peaceful protesters, only violent ones who violate the law.
“We’re going to continue to do our jobs the way we’ve done it,” Craig said, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“We respect peaceful protesters. We understand the judge’s order and we’ll make sure the protesters understand if there’s any aggression or violation of law, they will get ample notice like we’ve done in the past,” he said.
“For a period of 14 days, to be extended upon a showing of good cause, but not beyond 28 days absent consent by Defendants, the City of Detroit, including the Detroit Police Department … is enjoined from: Using striking weapons (including, but not limited to, batons and shields), chemical agents (including, but not limited to, tear gas and pepper spray), or rubber bullets against any individual peacefully engaging in protest or demonstrations who does not pose a physical threat to the safety of the public or police,” the order reads.
It goes on to say that authorities are temporarily banned from “Deploying chemical agents or a sound cannon against persons peacefully engaging in protest or demonstrations without an audible warning and a reasonable amount of time to disperse.”
Police are also prohibited from “Placing in a chokehold or ramming with a vehicle any individual attending a demonstration; Tightening the zip ties or handcuffs placed on any individual to the point that the restraints cause physical injury, including loss of circulation or change in color” and “Arresting any demonstrators en masse without probable cause.”
Michelson wrote that she “recognizes that police officers are often faced with dangerous and rapidly evolving situations while trying to enforce the law and maintain the safety of the public. And it is important that police officers have non-lethal options to use to protect themselves and the public when necessary.”
Banning the use of batons, shields, gas and other police tools on “peaceful” demonstrators “leaves open all lawful options for police to use reasonable force when necessary to defend against a threat and to make arrests when supported by probable cause,” she said.
“Any possible benefit police officers could gain from deploying chemical agents, projectiles, or striking weapons against demonstrators who pose no threat and are not resisting lawful commands is outweighed by the irreparable harm peaceful protestors would face,” Michelson wrote.
Craig, however, said none of this changes anything on the streets.
“The judge’s order is no different than what we’ve always done,” Craig said.
“Every time we’ve had to use less-than-lethal force, it’s been to address violence by protesters, resisting arrest, or when they’ve tried to take over an intersection in violation of the law. Technically, nothing has changed.”
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