Four people who took part in a George Floyd vigil on Boston Common last May 31 have sued BPD and three specific officers for allegedly attacking them with batons and pepper spray as the rally ended and turned into several hours of looting that they say they had nothing to do with.
The lawsuit charges that BPD officers attacked marchers who had assembled outside the D-4 police station two nights earlier as a prelude to what would happen downtown with officers equipped with wooden batons and pepper spray, and that BPD policies make it very difficult for people to file complaints against officers
In the suit, filed in US District Court in Boston this morning, Jasmine Huffman, Justin Ackers, Caitlyn Hall and Benjamin Chambers-Maher summed up their case, which charges the officers with unreasonable use of force and depriving them of their First Amendment rights:
Each of the four plaintiffs went to Boston on May 31, 2020, to peacefully protest the injustice of George Floyd’s death. The plaintiffs were peaceful. They did not commit any crimes, nor were they arrested or charged with crimes.
Despite engaging in peaceful protest, each of the plaintiffs was physically attacked by Boston police officers. Officers struck three of the four plaintiffs with wooden riot batons. Officers sprayed two of the four plaintiffs with oleoresin capsicum (“OC”) (pepper) spray. Two plaintiffs required medical attention because of the Boston police officers’ baton strikes.
Officer Burke attacked Ms. Huffman as she stood still with her arms in the air. Officers attacked the other three plaintiffs after they tried to leave the area to go home. Mr. Ackers was trying to leave on his moped when Officer Burke struck him. Mr. Chambers-Maher was sprayed as he walked away from Officer McManus and other Boston police officers to get to his car. Ms. Hall was struck by Officer Nolan as she stood near the Downtown Crossing T station with her hands up; she had been planning to ride the T but the Boston police had caused the MBTA stations to shut down.
The suit alleges that Hall was protecting another protester when the cop attacking him turned toward her and whacked her hard enough with a baton to cause one of her teeth to puncture her lip.
They add they had nothing to do with the looting, that, in fact, three of them were simply trying to leave the area, but could not because police had essentially bottled them up in the area:
On May 31, after the protest at the Common ended, the people who gathered there to express their views, including Plaintiffs, were trying to leave. BPD officers were ordering people to leave the area.
At the same time that its officers were ordering people to leave the area, the BPD, in coordination with the MBTA, caused all of the T stations in the area to close. There were no Uber or Lyft drivers who could access the area. As a result, many of the people who came to protest were unable to leave the area on public transportation.
On May 14, 2021, Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey acknowledged that a “blue wall” of silence existed in the Boston Police Department, which prevented police officers from reporting misconduct by fellow officers. This policy or custom existed in the early 1990s and continued into 2021. Acting Mayor Janey said, “officers were intimidated into silence for fear of retaliation” during an investigation in 2021.
Because of this “blue wall” police officers in Boston felt free to use unreasonable and excessive force on protesters because they expected fellow officers would not report any misconduct and they knew that the police department would accept the word of a police officer over the word of a civilian.
The suit was filed by Howard Friedman, a Brookline attorney who specializes in police brutality and misconduct cases and Mark Loevy-Reyes, a Chicago attorney who also has a background in police-abuse cases.