DENVER (KDVR) — Attorneys representing plaintiffs in a consolidated federal lawsuit argued that the City of Denver’s policies, practices and customs led to constitutional violations affecting multiple citizens during the George Floyd protests in May 2020.
“For our constitutional rights to have any meaning…we need people like the seven folks I represent to stand up to safeguard those rights when they come under attack, and I believe the evidence will show…that that’s exactly what happened,” said Tim McDonald, an attorney representing seven of the 12 people suing Denver in the trial that started Monday.
During his opening arguments on Monday, McDonald shared photographs of the less-lethal weapons police used throughout the protests, which included pepper ball launchers, 40mm launchers and 12-gauge shotguns that fired bean bags at some protesters. He also showed photographs of the plaintiffs with injuries, telling the jury they were targeted with tear gas or other weapons.
“Being out after curfew is not a license to shoot someone,” McDonald said.
A pair of women, he said, were targeted on their own private property.
“These are not people committing violence and breaking windows. These are people raising their voices,” McDonald said.
McDonald also shared with the jury pages from Denver Police Department leadership and recruitment manuals. The evidence will show, he argued, what they do in practice is different than what is written in the manuals.
“Denver’s leadership took no meaningful action to prepare (for the protests),” he said. “They had an opportunity to do so. They didn’t take it.”
Plaintiffs’ attorneys also expressed concern with a police tactic called “kettling,” in which protesters were corralled into small areas while being subjected to tear gas.
Meanwhile, Denver’s defense attorney, Lindsay Jordan, referred to the protest violence as “unprecedented,” additionally saying that the protections of the first amendment are “not unlimited.”
She described reports of gunshots, people using hammers to break glass on property and buildings and officers being pelted with large rocks, bottles and containers of human feces and excrement.
She told the jury that three officers were struck by a car and that sometimes it is important to consider the actions of the crowd as a whole. According to Jordan, some were agitators and others were blocking traffic, which was creating a dangerous situation.
While telling the jury that the police department’s response was “certainly not” perfect, Jordan admitted that Denver’s response evolved along with the protest.
Jordan told the jury it was their responsibility to show that a custom practice or policy of Denver was the cause of the violation of the plaintiffs’ rights.
As FOX31 reported last week, officers will no longer use the 40mm less-lethal weapon during crowd control situations.
While the City and County of Denver does not comment on pending litigation, the Denver Police Department did point out that it had made multiple changes in policy and procedures since the protests.