Two women who say Minneapolis police officers hit them with nightsticks during a Nov. 18 clash between protesters and law enforcement at the Fourth Precinct police station are suing the city, alleging excessive use of force and violation of their free speech rights.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court last week, is the first to come out of protests that followed the death of Jamar Clark, who was shot by police Nov. 15. The lawsuit details a confrontation on one of the most tense nights of the 18-day encampment at the Fourth Precinct. Earlier that day, police had moved protesters who were camped in the police station entrance, and hundreds of demonstrators rallied outside the building.
One of the plaintiffs, Carrie Athanasselis, went to the precinct that night out of concern for her daughter’s safety, according to the complaint. She and her daughter, Camille Williams, were standing with about 10 protesters in an alley near the side entrance to the police station — away from the majority of protesters gathered at the main entrance.
Officers, who are not named in the lawsuit, asked them to move back, apparently so a van could pass, the complaint said. The van then stopped in the middle of the alley and officers began forcefully moving protesters, allegedly hitting Williams and Athanasselis in the face with nightsticks. The lawsuit also claims an officer grabbed a phone Williams was using to record the incident, threw it on the ground and hit it with a nightstick.
The lawsuit says the plaintiffs complied with orders to move, but the city responded in a subsequent legal filing that they did not. Joshua Williams, an attorney for Williams and Athanasselis, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune the video recorded on the phone ends as the police force begins.