ACLU files suit against Cleveland for arrests during Michael Brelo verdict

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CLEVELAND- The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed a lawsuit on Monday against the city of Cleveland, Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Calvin Williams.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, seeks damages for what it calls "unlawful arrest and detainment" of four people who protested the Michael Brelo verdict.

Brelo, a Cleveland police officer, was found not guilty on two counts of voluntary manslaughter on May 23. The charges stemmed from a November 2012 chase through the city of Cleveland, which ended in gunfire and the deaths of two people behind an East Cleveland school.

“It’s questionable whether any order to disperse was given and it’s clear that even if an order had been given the protesters had no opportunity to leave. The police surrounded and trapped them in an alley. This violates their Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable seizures. What’s more, the police detained most of the protesters for two nights, much longer than what was reasonable, just to keep them from engaging in further protest activities," said Freda Levenson, legal director the ACLU of Ohio.

The ACLU lawsuit stated protestors were detained longer than necessary for misdemeanor charges so they could not rejoin the demonstrations.

“Arresting and detaining these individuals for so long sends a message to any would-be protesters that they will be punished if they engage in their constitutionally guaranteed right. The freedom to peaceably protest and assemble is critical to a working democracy," Levenson said in a news release on Monday.

While the city of Cleveland does not comment on pending litigation, President of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Union Steve Loomis release the following statement:

"The ACLU has a peculiar definition of 'peaceful' protesting. This particular group disrupted traffic patterns, deployed pepper spray on and confronted innocent citizens and visitors on E 4th and W 6th streets. They boasted about plans to 'f up happy hour' on social media while ignoring and in fact challenging the lawful orders of on scene Police Officers.

"We will always support and defend a protestors right to peaceful free speech. We also have a duty to protect the rights, freedom of movement, and safety of the innocent and uninvolved citizens who were downtown that weekend to simply have a good time. This is exactly what we did."

More stories on Michael Brelo here