60 People Sue Over Alleged Police Brutality At Chicago Protests

protesters and police in Chicago on May 30, 2020
Protesters and police face off during demonstrations in Chicago on May 30, 2020, following the police killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd. On Thursday, 60 people sued the city of Chicago over alleged police brutality during summer protests. Katherine Nagasawa / WBEZ
protesters and police in Chicago on May 30, 2020
Protesters and police face off during demonstrations in Chicago on May 30, 2020, following the police killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd. On Thursday, 60 people sued the city of Chicago over alleged police brutality during summer protests. Katherine Nagasawa / WBEZ

60 People Sue Over Alleged Police Brutality At Chicago Protests

On the afternoon of May 30, Chicago resident Veronica Rodriguez joined a protest against police violence downtown.

Rodriguez, 20, marched with a crowd of thousands north from Harold Washington Library.

Then, Rodriguez said, after they had crossed the river over the Michigan Avenue bridge, police trapped the group and started singling out demonstrators. At some point during the mayhem, Rodriguez fell down.

While she was on the ground, a police officer cracked Rodriguez on the head with a baton, causing a “gaping, bleeding cut in her head” that required emergency medical treatment, including “several staples” to close the wound, Rodriguez claims in a new court filing.

Rodriguez is one of 60 people suing the city of Chicago, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown and individual officers for alleged acts of brutality and misconduct during this summer’s protests.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court, is the latest effort by Chicago activists to force accountability on the city and its Police Department for what they say was a “brutal, violent and unconstitutional” response to demonstrations.

Kathleen Fieweger, the spokeswoman for the city’s law department, said they had not yet had a chance to review the lawsuit, but stressed that “these are allegations at this stage and not proof.” Fieweger said they will review the complaint and “respond through the courts as appropriate.”

Brown has defended the actions of officers during protests and said protesters have provoked police into using force. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has also stood by police actions during protests.

“Just as the overwhelming majority of protests remained peaceful … the vast majority of officers followed their training and supervisor direction during these difficult times,” Lightfoot tweeted in June.

That is part of the problem, according to the lawsuit, which claims that officers who brutalized protesters often did so in plain view of their supervisors and the alleged abuse was “consistent with the CPD’s long standing policies and practices of using abusive tactics and excessive force against protesters.”

“Despite widespread evidence of unchecked police violence, throughout these events, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has praised the police for their ‘restraint,’ ” the complaint reads.

Beyond the city of Chicago and its police leader, the lawsuit also names 20 individual CPD officers who allegedly committed acts of misconduct during protests.

The 203-page complaint outlines dozens of instances of alleged abuse at protests throughout the summer, including one 25-year-old Black man who said police yanked out one of his dreadlocks and mocked him as blood poured from his head, and a 45-year-old white woman who claims police lifted her off the ground by her neck and dragged her down the street “causing her back to scrape and bleed.”

The lawsuit contends that “CPD’s brutal response” to protests included driving CPD cars through crowds of protestors, punching protesters in the face and stomping on protesters on the ground.

“CPD officers’ animus against protesters is unmistakable — they regularly referred to protesters with terms that are vile, misogynistic, and anti-gay,” the complaint reads.

Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice Desk. Follow him @pksmid. Email him at psmith@wbez.org.