Will Detroit Breathe? Federal Judge Cracks Whip on Police Chokeholds in City Amid Protests

Activist group 'Detroit Will Breathe' filed suit alleging violation of 'First and Fourth Amendment rights'

In a move providing respite to anti-racism protesters in the city of Detroit, a federal judge on Friday banned the Detroit police from employing chokeholds, chemical agents and striking weapons against demonstrators, legal observers, and personnel providing medical assistance.

Laurie Michelson, US District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan granted a restraining order partially following allegations from the activist group, Detroit Will Breathe, that the city's police had resorted to the use of methods such as rubber bullets, chokeholds, pepper spray, gas, and flash grenades, among others, against peaceful demonstrators "without probable cause."

In the order which will be in effect at least for a minimum of 14 days, Judge Michelson said, "The Court finds that temporary injunctive relief is warranted and grants in part plaintiffs' motion for a Temporary Restraining Order."

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Representational picture Pixabay

Violation of Amendments

According to the court filings, Detroit Will Breathe alleged that the use of the said tactics violated the "First and Fourth Amendment rights", which also includes practicing free speech. The motion filed by the group seeking a temporary restraining order centered primarily on clashes that took place between 29 May and 2 June, on 10 July, and on 22 August.

After the order, the activist group said, "This is a victory to be sure, but it is the first battle in what's about to be a long war." However, according to The Associated Press, James Craig, Chief of Detroit Police stated that the order will not have any bearing on how police officers dealt with protesters as they used force only against unruly protesters.

Growing Calls for Police Chief's Sacking

Calls for Craig's firing have been intensifying since June. This was after police officers drove an SUV plowed through a crowd where people had been jumping on the vehicle. However, the police chief said that his officers had assumed that they were being "fired upon."

Detroit Police Plows Through Crowd
A still from the video that is being widely circulated on social media. Twitter / Ethan Ketner

At a news conference held on Thursday by Detroit Will Breathe along with 35 other organizations, the groups called for Craig's departure. "Chief Craig's willingness to cozy up to the brazenly racist Trump administration is not welcomed here. We call upon Detroit police chief James Craig to resign. Go. It's just not working," a speaker was quoted saying by Fox 2 Detroit.

Protests against racism and police brutality have rocked several US cities after the death of a 46-year-old African American, George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.

(With additional inputs from agencies)