ACLU files lawsuit against Columbus Police over January protest

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio has filed a lawsuit against Columbus Police and the City of Columbus.

The lawsuit alleges that police used excessive force on demonstrators, who were protesting President Trump’s travel ban on January 30th, near the Statehouse.

Staff Attorney with the ACLU Elizabeth Bonham said protesters were allowed by police to gather for several hours and then officers began issuing dispersal orders.

She said eventually police pepper sprayed above the crowd, forcing them to leave.

“In the course of that conduct the Columbus Police planned to target and attack several individual protesters who were there expressing their message,” said Bonham.

Three protesters are listed as plantiffs: Ellen Abdur-Rabin, 29, Harrison Kallner, 18, Connor Lefevers, 18.

“It appears to be targeting based on malice and retaliation for their first amendment message,” said Bonham.

She said those individuals were maliciously targeted by three unnamed officers and pepper sprayed at close range.

“Then later laughed and joked about how they had intentionally gone after them,” said Bonham. “That is malicious conduct far outside the boundaries of constitutional policing.”

In the lawsuit it states: “Officer Doe #1 saw Ellen on the sidewalk, pointed to her and said his fellow police officers, ‘that chick, I wanted that chick to get it and she got it.’ Another officer responded, ‘she got it good!’ and the group of officers laughed.”

“This case for us is a very clear example of excessive force by the department and so, what we’re hoping to achieve by bringing this case is systemic change that will apply into the future and do real reform in the department,” said Bonham.

The ACLU said in this current political era protests will continue to happen regularly and police must be prepared to de-escalate situations.

“We’re seeing this kind of pattern of a use of force out of this police department and we feel that this lawsuit is the right one to make sure that we can get that kind of lasting change,” said Bonham.

Police Chief Kim Jacobs and Lt. Jeffrey Lipp are listed specifically as defendants in this case.

NBC4 reached out to the Columbus City Attorney’s Office and the Columbus Division of Police for a comment on the lawsuit. They said they do not comment on pending litigation.

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