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Saturday, July 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Police Settle With Ferguson Protesters

ST. LOUIS (CN) - Three police agencies on Thursday reached a settlement with Ferguson protesters who filed a federal lawsuit to restrict the use of tear gas during protests.

The settlement requires officers to provide clear and unambiguous warnings before using gas;

allow sufficient opportunity for people in the area to leave first;

attempt to minimize the impact on people complying with lawful demands;

ensure there is a safe escape path;

and not use gas to frighten or punish people lawfully exercising their constitutional rights.

Attorneys for St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar and Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald Johnson signed off on settlement agreement.

The protesters were represented by Thomas Harvey, with ArchCity Defenders, and Denise Lieberman, with the Advancement Project.

"This victory rests on the shoulders of the courageous protesters who are tirelessly demonstrating in the streets of Ferguson, and it's a testament to the powerful movement they have fostered," Harvey said in a joint statement.

Lieberman said in the statement that such excessive police force hadn't been seen since the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

"The use of tear gas in Ferguson has been a tactic to chill this movement, and today's consent decree will finally put a stop to those efforts," Lieberman said.

Police claimed that they had to use tear gas to prevent looting and loss of life as the protests over Michael Brown's death turned violent.

U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson issued a temporary restraining order on police after a Dec. 11 hearing. The TRO required police to provide "reasonable" warning to protesters before deploying gas, but did not define what constituted reasonable. Jackson dismissed the lawsuit Thursday.

Each police agency agreed to pay $2,500 in legal costs. Police will order their officers to comply with the settlement's terms, and include those terms in formal policies by Aug. 15.

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