By Ryan Briggs • July 14 2020
Protesters face off with police during a demonstration on I-676 in Philadelphia on Monday, June 1 (Courtesy of Pilar Goñalons Pons)
Updated: 9:30 a.m.
676. Both incidents garnered national attention over the arrests of protesters and viral videos of police deploying tear gas canisters, rubber bullets and pepper spray.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed suit on behalf of 11 plaintiffs over the use of force by police in West Philadelphia following looting that took place along the 52nd Street corridor on May 31. But the suit asserts that police and an armored vehicle outfitted with a canister launcher later turned tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters and spilled into surrounding streets.
“[Police] went up and down residential streets in the neighborhood, launching tear gas canisters and firing rubber bullets at residents and passersby who were doing nothing more than sitting on their porches,” the suit asserts.
Plaintiffs include nearby residents who say they were sickened by tear gas that wafted through open doors or windows, a man whose shoulder was dislocated when he was allegedly struck by a rubber bullet, a medical student who was gassed after treating multiple residents injured by the police, and litigants that asserted cops used racial epithets while attempting to disburse protesters, among others.
NAACP LDF Assistant Counsel Cara McClellan described a long history of police violence against the Black community in West Philly, comparing the May incident to the 1985 MOVE bombing.
“City officials must be held accountable for these militaristic police actions, which are discriminatory, illegal, and completely unacceptable,” she said. “Our clients deserve safety and security in their own neighborhood and to be free of fear of discrimination and police terror.”