Police Departments Warned to Protect Constitutional Rights Ahead of Juneteenth

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
June 17, 2020 3:15 pm

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HOUSTON – With wide-spread protests planned in honor of Juneteenth, the ACLU of Texas today sent a letter to the largest law enforcement agencies in Texas demanding that they publicly commit to ending the use of force and violence against protesters and to end mass arrests of peaceful protesters. The letter highlights the failures to uphold constitutional rights by several police departments and the legal liability for failing to abide by the Constitution.

“As thousands of people are expected to exercise their right to protest for Black Lives on Juneteenth, we must ensure that people can make their voices heard without fear of police abuse,” said Andre Segura, legal director for the ACLU of Texas. “It is important that law enforcement agencies do not repeat the errors seen in the past few weeks and commit to stopping police violence. This must be done to respect people’s constitutional rights, protect the lives of residents, and avoid exposing cities and police departments to legal liability.”

The demand letter is the second letter the ACLU of Texas has sent on police use of force. On June 3, the ACLU of Texas sent a letter to local law enforcement agencies detailing ten principles to protect protesters. Despite this, multiple departments in the state engaged in the unnecessary use of force and indiscriminate arrests.

The letter details how police departments have engaged in mass arrests through highly disfavored practices, such as kettling or trapping protestors in an enclosed area, which heightens the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Officers have also used excessive and unwarranted force through rubber bullets and irritants during demonstrations. Arresting people for peacefully protesting is unconstitutional and dangerous during this pandemic.

Across the country, Black Lives Matter and the ACLU have sued police departments and municipalities for the use of excessive force, kettling, and mass arrests against protestors.

A copy of the letter is available here.

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