SALT LAKE CITY — Last year's protests over the killing of George Floyd sparked local demonstrations in downtown Salt Lake City, and now 14 Utahns are suing the city alleging civil rights violations, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
They plaintiffs claim the city used unreasonable force and made unlawful arrests during the protests over the weekend of May 30, 2020, with some plaintiffs alleging police caused injuries without provocation and others alleging they were arrested for failure to disperse.
The lawsuit also claims that a curfew order from Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall was unconstitutional, violating their First Amendment rights of freedom and speech and assembly.
Those that have sued are seeking punitive damages against the city for actions they claim were “motivated by evil or reckless intent,” according to the lawsuit.
No response from the city has been filed, but a spokesperson said that both the curfew and the city's actions during the protests were "proper and lawful."
“We are confident that the Mayor acted within her legal authority to issue the emergency curfew and the Salt Lake City Police Department acted appropriately during the civil unrest of May 30 and June 1,” the spokesperson said.
But according to the complaint filed on Oct. 8, police shot Brogan Knebeo with a rubber bullet at close range, and he now suffers vision loss, loss of work, medical expenses, and PTSD.
Another plaintiff was also allegedly shot by rubber bullets, slammed to the ground, and arrested for violating the curfew, according to the complaint, despite being a medic and therefore under an exception for emergency personnel.
All 14 plaintiffs are represented by Brian Jackson, who attended the protests with his wife and daughters, and said in an email to the Tribune that “as a civil rights attorney in Utah, I decided I couldn’t sit on the sidelines and needed to play a part in this and help out,” Jackson said in an email. He is offering his services at no cost.
“We hope that moving forward Salt Lake City will be aware of and implement plans to ensure individual federal first amendment constitutional rights and procedures are realized before issuing sweeping policies that can violate those vital rights,” said Jackson in an email to the Tribune.