This lawsuit, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, challenges the excessive use of force and suppression of free speech by the City of Fredericksburg (“City”) and County of Stafford (“County”) government and law enforcement officials in response to peaceful “Black Lives Matter” protests in summer 2020. The Firm represents nine individuals who peacefully protested to demand an end to the systemic racism and police brutality that have taken the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other Black Americans.

Following the death on May 25, 2020, of George Floyd—an unarmed Black man who was killed by a police officer who kneeled on his neck as he repeatedly cried out, “I can’t breathe”—Black Lives Matter protests against racist police violence spread across the world, including in the small exurban town of Fredericksburg, Virginia.  

This suit alleges that, although the protests were peaceful, the City and County officials ordered law enforcement to break up the demonstrations, to prevent the protesters from voicing their criticisms of the police. On at least three occasions during a two-day time period from May 31 to June 1, 2020, the City and County officials ordered law enforcement officers to deploy harmful chemical agents and military-style force to disperse demonstrators, directing a barrage of tear gas canisters, pepper spray, and rubber bullets at Plaintiffs at close range, and trapping them within enclosed areas without a safe exit. City Manager Timothy Baroody also issued an unlawful curfew to criminalize the expression of free speech.

The firm filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on February 4, 2021seeking damages and declaratory relief for the constitutional injury, physical pain and injury, and emotional distress suffered by Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs reached a confidential monetary settlement with the City of Fredericksburg and Stafford County law enforcement officers to resolve the case.

The Relman Colfax case team includes Soohyun Choi, Gabriel Diaz, Ted Olds, and Valerie Comenencia Ortiz, with paralegal assistance from Alicia Menendez-Brennan, Mariana Boully Perez, and Charlotte Saltzman. Relman Colfax co-counseled with The Law Office of Tara Murray, PLLC and local counsel Terry Frank Law.

Case CitationBanks v. City of Fredericksburg, No. 3:21-cv-0065 (E.D.Va)

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