ACLU seeks to require St. Louis police to protect protesters’ constitutional rights

ST. LOUIS – St. Louis police are being accused of acting in an unconstitutional manner during protests between September 15 and September 17.

Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of ACLU of Missouri, said it leaves protesters and observers in a difficult situation.

“They need to decide one do they want to exercise their First Amendment rights? Do they want to be at risk of being arbitrarily arrested, pepper-sprayed, beaten, or hurt?” he said.

The ACLU submitted a list of a dozen witnesses who testified Wednesday in federal court at the Eagleton Courthouse. Their claims range from being pepper-sprayed without warning, hit with police shields, and being kettled by authorities.

“We want federal court to step in and set up rules of the road so policing is done appropriately, safely, and constitutionally,” Mittman said.

After the protests in Ferguson, the ACLU and police came to an agreement on how to move forward. Mittman said the ACLU wants that in St. Louis City.

“There is a federal court consent decree the police agreed how they would act and what the rules of the road are they would use,” he said. “We believe the same thing can be used here.”

Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom, but cross examination of witnesses did take place.

The ACLU wants the court to require that the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department immediately adopt protocols to protect constitutional rights of protesters, observers, and those recording activity.

“We can sit down with the city at any time and say, ‘Let’s work together.’ Let’s come up with rules of the road that work for the constitution and protestors, and work for police,” Mittman said.