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Federal Court Hearings Consider Challenge To Police Protest Policies

Max Garrison

Police in Columbus should be barred from using force to disperse peaceful demonstrators, a group of anti-racism protesters is arguing in a hearing underway in federal court.

The multi-day hearing that began Monday in Columbus stems from a federal lawsuit filed in July on behalf of more than two dozen protesters seeking monetary damages for injuries sustained in clashes with police after the death of George Floyd.

The lawsuit describes peaceful demonstrators and bystanders being beaten, fired on with wooden and rubber bullets, and unlawfully arrested during protests in late May and June.

Lead plaintiff Tammy Fournier Alsaada, a community activist, was pepper-sprayed without provocation after receiving permission to walk through a line of police to discuss the arrests of some protesters, the lawsuit said.

In this week's hearing, attorneys will argue for an injunction banning Columbus police from violent enforcement actions involving nonviolent protesters. Attorneys also say police body cameras should be used during protests and badge numbers displayed even on riot gear.

The city opposes the request, arguing the police department has since changed its policies to implement most of what is being requested.

In December, the state adopted a policy for police handling of mass protests that requires a minimum use of force.

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