In the wake of the recent protests in Sacramento surrounding the death of George Floyd, as protesters are taking stock of their injuries, an increasing number of police brutality charges are beginning to emerge.
One local protester, Tee Fansofa, was left with a fractured eyebrow ridge, a dislocated jawbone, and brain bleeding after being fired at in the head with seven rubber bullets and a tear gas canister.
“I don’t understand what they’re trying to do,” they told their interviewer. “Why would you aim for my head? Are they trying to put me out? Are they looking after people? Are they protecting and serving?”
Another Sacramento resident, Shantania Love, filed a lawsuit against the Sacramento Police Department after police fired a rubber bullet at her during a protest in Oak Park, directly hitting her in her left eye. After surgery, doctors informed her that it is likely she will never be able to see out of the eye again.
“My 5-year-old, she can’t look at me without crying,” she commented in interview. “I am here today for [my children]. To show them that no matter what happens, we fight for what’s right.”
The local casualty reports continue, from an eighteen-year-old hospitalized after being shot by police with a rubber bullet just days after graduating high school, to the case of legal observer Daniel Garza, a member of the National Lawyer’s Guild responsible for attending the event and documenting police conduct, who was shot in the head with a rubber bullet and pepper ball.
In light of such incidents, Garza, Fansofa, and two other protesters injured by the police have filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Sacramento, the Sacramento Police Department, and Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn, alleging that Sacramento police used excessive force against peaceful protesters and that the department ‘armed for war against its own citizenry’.
“This gross use of excessive force against protesters is an escalation of police violence which shows a decision was made at the highest levels to employ dangerous projectiles in an attempt to discourage protesters from exercising their constitutional rights to demonstrate,” reads a press release from the office of Mark E. Merin, from which the federal complaint was filed.
Complaints like these are becoming increasingly frequent. Excessive force lawsuits against the police are appearing in the wake of protests across the country in Los Angeles, Seattle, and dozens of cities across the country, including Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed and the protests originated, and which now faces two potential class-action lawsuits.
National allegations have been made as well, with a suit by the ACLU filed against the White House over an incident in which peaceful protesters were shot at with rubber bullets and tear gas in order to clear the path for a photo-op at a nearby church. The document refers to the action as ‘the very despotism against which the First Amendment was intended to protect’.
Such numerous and widespread allegations coupled with calls from across the country for institutional reform, up to and including the disbandment of the police force, indicate fundamental instability in law enforcement as it currently operates.