Protester Sues Police RPD Officers For Tear Gassing
A Richmond protester is suing the Richmond Police officers who teargassed protesters gathered at the Robert E. Lee monument on Monday.
Attorney Tom Roberts said the officers ambushed a peaceful, non-violent protest roughly 20 minutes before an 8 p.m. curfew.
“It’s our contention that this was done in order to diminish and chill their first amendment speech,” Roberts said in an interview with VPM.
Roberts filed the civil rights lawsuit in Richmond Circuit court on behalf of Jonathan Arthur, a former U.S. Marine who demonstrated at the monument. Arthur was on the front line of the assembly when the tear gas was deployed.
The lawsuit also alleges the officers fired pepper spray and attacked protesters with batons.
According to the lawsuit, the gas “caused Mr. Arthur anger, anguish as well as physical harm and discomfort: stinging his lungs, eyes, and face and causing him respiratory distress.”
The police department has not released the names of the police officers involved in the incident.
A day after it happened, Richmond Mayor Levar Stony promised swift action against the officers involved. He did not specify what that meant.
“Words cannot make this right, and words cannot restore the trust broken this evening,” Stoney said in a Tweet.
After the Richmond Police Department issued conflicting explanations about the incident, Police Chief William Smith also apologized in a Tweet.
Smith said he’d reviewed video from the incident and determined that the officers involved took "unwarranted action" and would be disciplined for violating department "protocols and directions given.”
The lawsuit asks the court to declare that the officers violated the protesters’ constitutional rights. It asks the department to publicly identify the officers involved and order them to pay $50,000 in damages.
The Richmond Police Department has acknowledged VPM’s request for comment and has yet to provide a response.