COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed Wednesday against the City of Columbus on behalf of 13 people who say they were victims of police abuse during recent downtown protests.
“Like most other police departments in America, the Columbus Division of Police has failed to deter or punish its officers for using excessive or unnecessary force against African Americans in our city,” said Sean Walton, one of the attorneys representing demonstrators. “This lawsuit is the result of the department using extreme and violent tactics against peaceful protestors who publicly gathered to oppose and challenge this documented history.”
The court filing includes photographs and cellphone videos documenting some of the specific incidents described in the lawsuit.
Plaintiff Rebecca Lamey says she was hit multiple times with wooden bullets fired by police just north of Broad St. and High St. In one case, she says police jumped out of an unmarked van and just started shooting.
“When they performed their drive-by shooting on us, it was the most insane thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Lamey said. “I can’t believe that they would treat us like that as citizens of Columbus.”
Attorney Chanda Brown says the lawsuit seeks to force change.
“This lawsuit is about more than seeking damages, its about seeking justice,” Brown said. “It’s about making changes to the culture of the police department that’s affected us in so many ways.”
Tammy Fornier Alsaada, a founder of The Peoples Justice Project, is one of the plaintiffs in the case.
“It doesn’t matter to me what happens in this lawsuit,” Fornier Alsaada said. “What matters to me is that we live in a city where people are in place who care enough to not start a war against citizens exercising their first amendment rights “
City Attorney Zach Klein issued the following statement:
“The City has yet to be served the complaint, so we’re unfamiliar with the details of the allegations at this point. Overall, we need to transform the culture of justice in Columbus. That’s why I’ve been working diligently on reforms to address the City’s response to the ongoing protests as well as systemic changes needed to improve police-community relations. I remain committed to working toward justice and accountability for the residents of Columbus.”