ACLU requests Virginia police be barred from using irritants to disperse protesters

Lawyers from the Virginia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union have filed an emergency request to bar police from using chemical irritants or other devices to disperse protesters.

ACLU attorneys told Circuit Judge Beverly W. Snukals on Monday that Richmond police violated protesters’ constitutional rights to speech by employing chemical irritants and other devices when dispersing them from outside City Hall last week, news outlets reported.

The lawsuit claimed Richmond police declared an unlawful assembly without a cause during the June 23 protest, and then used chemical irritants and rubber bullets to remove the demonstrators from the area.

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That night, Richmond police posted on Twitter the demonstrations were deemed unlawful “due to conditions of activity such as sit-ins, sit-downs, blocking traffic, blocking entrances or exits of buildings that impact public safety or infrastructure.”

The ACLU’s request would be an impediment to police while they’re on the job, Richard Hill, a senior assistant city attorney, told the judge.

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The ACLU said such devices should only be used when there is clear and present danger, and when they’re the only option.

The judge said she would render a prompt decision.