Relman Colfax has filed a lawsuit, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, challenging the excessive use of force and suppression of free speech by the City of Fredericksburg (“City”), the County of Stafford (“County”), and government and law enforcement officials in response to peaceful “Black Lives Matter” protests in summer 2020. With civil and human rights lawyer Tara Murray, the Firm represents ten 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 of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, 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, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, alleges that, although the protests were peaceful, the City and County 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 ordered law enforcement to deploy harmful chemical agents and military-style force to disperse protesters, 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. This suit seeks redress for the constitutional injuries and emotional distress suffered by Plaintiffs.
The Relman Colfax case team includes Jia Cobb and Soohyun Choi, with paralegal assistance from Alicia Menendez-Brennan and Charlotte Saltzman. Relman Colfax is co-counseling with the Law Office of Tara Murray, PLLC.