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Lawsuit accuses Minneapolis PD of excessive force at 4th Precinct protests

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Two women say Minneapolis police officers used excessive force against them during protests outside the Fourth Precinct, and filed a federal lawsuit against the city seeking compensation.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit – which you can read here – are Carrie Athanasselis and her adult daughter Camille Williams, both from Minneapolis.

They say they were with a small group of protesters outside the precinct on Nov. 18, away from the larger crowd, when they were shoved by officers and hit with night sticks, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says the amount of force used against them was "unreasonable."

The protest was part of the response to the killing of Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by Minneapolis police on Nov. 15, after officers responded to a domestic violence call. The circumstances that led to his death are disputed by activists and police officers; the FBI and Department of Justice are investigating, as well as state agencies.

In its legal response – which you can read here – the City of Minneapolis denied just about every allegation, saying the protest was not peaceful at the time, nor were the demonstrators complying with officer requests as the lawsuit claims.

The city also says the alleged use of force complaints were "justified" – by the actions of the plaintiffs, or by those around them whom they had no control over, and also by the doctrine of self-defense.

Minneapolis police spokesperson John Elder told BringMeTheNews the department "cannot comment on pending litigation."

Details from the lawsuit

According to the suit:

Williams was "peacefully protesting" outside the Fourth Precinct on the night of Nov. 18. After hearing about police using a chemical irritant against demonstrators, Athanasselis went there and met up with her daughter.

The two joined about a dozen protesters who went to the side of the station, away from the larger crowd.

There they met officers with riot gear, and Williams began recording on her phone.

The small group of demonstrators was told by officers to move so a white van could get through. They complied, but the van stopped, and officers then began shoving and yelling "push 'em."

During the incident, Williams was hit with a night stick "several times" on her face and body; Athanasselis was hit under her left eye. Both were treated at the emergency room.

The lawsuit claims the womens' First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights were violated.

The Star Tribune spoke with the plaintiffs' attorney, who reiterated the claims laid out in the suit.

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