Legal observers sue Detroit police over alleged brutality, civil rights violations during 2020 demonstrations

Five legal observers involved in lawsuit

Lawsuit filed over arrests made during last summer's police protests

DETROIT – On Monday it was announced that five legal observers with the National Lawyers Guild are suing the Detroit Police Department.

The lawsuit is over allegations of police brutality and civil rights violations that took place during protests against police brutality in 2020.

READ: Elected officials call for independent investigation into Detroit police’s use of force against protestors

“Over the course of 2020, I was beaten and gassed several times,” a plaintiff said.

“I was maced on my back, head, kneck, face and arms. I suffered chemical burns from that attack that took weeks to heal,” another plaintiff said.

According to the lawsuit, Detroit police should have known the plaintiffs were there to only observe because of the distinct bright greenish hats.

“Deputy chief gave us assurances that these legal observers wearing the green hats would be respected, and allowed to observe, we were not,” another plaintiff said.

READ: Changes to Detroit Police Department’s use of force policy includes banning chokeholds

Former police officer, now lawyer David Robinson spoke on behalf of the plaintiffs, insisting the arrests shouldn’t have happened.

“When we want to monitor the police, they say, ‘Not so.’ They oppose us with unreasonable force, brutality and unruly arrests,” Robinson said.

Members of the protest organization, Detroit Will Breathe were also present. That includes activist Tristan Taylor.

“This is just another example of Detroit police acting with impunity,” Taylor said.

Some of the plaintiffs were arrested during last summer’s demonstrations, but we’re told all charges were dropped because of a lack of evidence.

Detroit’s police department is taking the allegations and suit seriously. The department claims they unsuccessfully reached out to the head of the National Lawyers Guild for their investigation.

The National Lawyers Guild is fully supportive of the lawsuit.

READ: More Detroit protest coverage

About the Authors:

Victor Williams joined Local 4 News in October of 2019 after working for WOIO in Cleveland, OH, WLOX News in Biloxi, MS, and WBBJ in Jackson, TN. Victor developed a love for journalism after realizing he was a great speaker and writer at an early age.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.