A group of individuals who protested after an unarmed Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Mo. sued local officials on Thursday for $41.5 million over civil rights violations that include wrongful arrests and police brutality.
In the suit, the plaintiffs say law enforcement met protestors outraged over the killing of the 18-year-old with “militaristic displays of force and weaponry,” (and) engaged U.S. citizens “as if they were war combatants.”
According to St. Louis Today, the suit was filed by the Black Lawyers for Justice, of Washington, D.C., against Ferguson, St. Louis County, and the police chiefs of both, as well as named and unnamed police officers for police actions in the days after the shooting.
Its president and founder, Malik Z. Shabazz, said in a press conference that “police were completely out of control” and “used excessive force on a regular basis,” calling it “virtually a police riot.” Shabazz said that although the suit was filed on behalf of “the Ferguson Five,” he expects others arrested during the protests to join the suit.
On Thursday, the plaintiffs spoke out about the police discrimination and brutality they experienced in the form of tear gas, rubber bullets, excessive force, and arrests.
One of the named plaintiffs, Dwayne A. Matthews Jr., 23, told reporters in a news conference outside U.S. District Court that he was walking to his mother’s house on Aug. 13 when he was confronted by police, shot with rubber-coated bullets multiple times, nearly drowned in a drainage ditch and pepper-sprayed. Police, he said, used racial epithets and called him “mop-head” during the arrest.
Tracey White, 38, said she and her 17-year-old son were arrested Aug. 13 at the Ferguson McDonald’s after attending a “Peace and Love Rally.” The pair were waiting to be picked up by White’s husband when police bearing rifles rushed in, she said.
“It looked like something out of a movie. It was so horrifying,” she said.
She said she was thrown to the ground and arrested for “failure to disperse” when she protested the treatment of her son. He was arrested when she tried to give him the iPad she was carrying, Matthews said. They were released four to five hours later in Clayton.
Missouri officials, including the police departments, could not be reached for comment.
In the meantime, the U.S. Justice Department continues their independent investigation of the shooting of Brown at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson. A St. Louis County grand jury has also convened to hear evidence in the case.