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ACLU protester lawsuit against Minneapolis, MPD will move forward

A federal judge denied motions to dismiss the suit.

The city of Minneapolis, as well as the police department and its leaders, will now face a second lawsuit over their handling of the 2020 George Floyd protests. 

On Friday, a federal judge struck down some motions to dismiss the class-action lawsuit, which was filed last July by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU-MN) and a Boston law firm on behalf of several protesters. 

With the ruling, the case can officially move forward. 

The suit alleges that the "Minneapolis Police Department and the Minnesota State Patrol used unnecessary and excessive force to suppress people’s First Amendment rights to assemble peacefully and speak out against injustice," a release says. 

"Peaceful protesters were tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed and shot at with hard foam bullets and flashbangs to intimidate them and quash the protests," ACLU-MN says, adding that officers "often fired without giving warning," and failed to give protesters time to comply.

"All the named plaintiffs suffered injuries, including severe bruising from projectiles, and eye and vocal issues from tear gas," the release adds.

Named in the original suit were the city of Minneapolis, its police department (MPD) and its chief, Medaria Arradondo, "in his individual and official capacity." 

Police union head Lt. Bob Kroll and the Minnesota State Patrol were also included in the lawsuit.

All parties filed a motion to dismiss, and a couple of the motions were successful. In Friday's ruling, the judge sided with the State Patrol, while affirming the city's claim that the plaintiffs had not made a convincing case that Chief Arradondo should be sued in his capacity as an individual.

However, he will remain part of the lawsuit "in his official capacity" as chief. 

Meanwhile, Kroll — who's accused of using "incendiary" rhetoric to encourage misconduct by some MPD officers during the protests — was not successful in his motion to dismiss. The judge disagreed with his argument that he was a "private actor" per his role as union chief and protected under the First Amendment. 

In her ruling, Judge Susan Richard Nelson wrote:

“... the Court finds that the Amended Complaint plausibly alleges that an unofficial custom regarding the use of unconstitutional force against peaceful protesters existed at the time of the George Floyd protests, and that the custom was either tacitly authorized by municipal policymakers or policymakers were deliberately indifferent to it,” wrote U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson.

This marks the second victory for those suing local law enforcement over the 2020 protests. Late last month, another federal judge denied motions to dismiss a lawsuit from photojournalist Linda Tirado, who was blinded in one eye by a foam bullet while covering the events.  

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