Federal judge blocks local police department from using force on nonviolent protesters

A federal judge handed down a ruling on Friday that will bar police in Columbus, Ohio from using force against peaceful protesters.

According to The Hill, the ruling from Chief Judge Algenon Marbley of the Southern District of Ohio says that use of force tactics including rubber bullets and body slams cannot be used by police against nonviolent demonstrators.

“Somewhere I read…”

In his 88-page opinion, Judge Marbley called past use of such tactics “the sad tale of officers, clothed with the awesome power of the state, run amok,” The Hill reported.

The plaintiffs in the case, a group of 26 protesters, first sued the city of Columbus last summer over what they said was an excessive use of force by local police, including pepper spray, tear gas, and wooden bullets.

The police department didn’t respond to request for comment from several outlets on the judge’s ruling.

“Multiple witnesses testified to their physical and emotional injuries suffered at the hands of CPD officers while exercising their fundamental rights to assemble and protest,” Marbley said, according to NPR.

The judge also included in his opinion a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights.

“Reforming the entire institution”

The news of Marbley’s ruling came shortly after a Columbus police officer shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, as The Hill noted. Bryant had allegedly threatened another individual with a knife.

Sean Walton, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the use of force case, said his clients were “pleased” with the decision, but don’t want to “lose sight” of their “ultimate” goal.

“We are pleased that the Court recognized the truth of the overwhelming testimony, shocking videos, and heart-wrenching pictures and issued an injunction which protects the people from the police,” Walton said, according to The Hill. “This was a bit of a reward for their bravery, but ultimately we can’t lose sight of the ultimate reason for the protest which was again the violence inflicted on Black and Brown communities,” the lawyer added later.

In the wake of Bryant’s death and continued criticism of the department’s response to protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, city officials have admitted that reform is necessary to regain the community’s trust.

“This is not about one particular officer, policy, or incident,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and City Attorney Zach Klein said in a joint statement, according to NBC News. “Rather, this is about reforming the entire institution of policing in Columbus.”

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