Virginia judge denies ACLU’s effort to block police from using tear gas, other chemical irritants to disperse protesters

Virginia

Protesters with shields and gas masks wait for police action as they surround the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue, Tuesday June 23, 2020, in Richmond, Va. The state has ordered the area around the statue closed from sunset to sunrise. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Richmond judge on Tuesday denied an emergency request from the Virginia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union that sought to bar police from using chemical irritants such as tear gas 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.

However Snukals denied the request on Tuesday, Courthouse News Service reported.

“Plaintiffs have not established that harm is certain or of such imminence that there is a clear and present need for such equitable relief,” Richmond City Circuit Judge Beverly W. Snukals wrote in an order released Tuesday morning. 

“Placing these restrictions on defendants in the form of a preliminary injunction unnecessarily burdens the police and puts them and the public at risk,” she added. “On the other hand, plaintiffs have the option in the future to protest without unlawful force, without blocking roadways and without disrupting or jeopardizing public peace and order.”

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.

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 have been an impediment to police while they’re on the job, Richard Hill, a senior assistant city attorney, told the judge.

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

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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