St. Louis, MO – A St. Louis alderwoman has sued the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department alleging she suffered “significant and persistent physical harm” when they deployed tear gas during a "protest" she attended in 2017.
The incident occurred on Sep. 15, 2017, after former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley was found not guilty in the shooting death of armed drug dealer Anthony Lamar Smith, the St. Louis Business Journal reported.
Smith was killed on Dec. 20, 2011, after he fled the scene of a drug transaction, rammed his vehicle into a patrol car, and led officers on a high-speed pursuit on wet roadways.
Smith drove into traffic head-on, and eventually crashed his vehicle.
He then refused to show officers his hands, and was shot as he reached for a handgun inside his vehicle. Officers recovered the weapon and a bag of heroin following the incident.
After Officer Stockley was found not guilty of first-degree murder, rioters took to the street to demand justice for what they argued was a case of “police brutality,” The St. Louis American reported.
According to KTVI, approximately 30 officers were injured during the chaotic and violent demonstrations. Some are still trying to recover.
According to alderwoman Megan Green’s lawsuit, she and approximately 100 other protesters hid inside a synagogue in the city’s central west end to avoid tear gas officers deployed to break up the anti-police demonstrations, St. Louis Public Radio reported.
Green said she was walking to her vehicle from the synagogue when a St. Louis Police armored vehicle drove by and sprayed her and fellow protesters “without warning.”
“We were pretty caught off-guard,” Green told The St. Louis American. “What I have witnessed in both 2014 and in 2017 is that chemical agents seem to be used as a message to punish protesters, specifically protesters against police brutality.”
“It seems to be the message that our police department is using to try to incentivize people to not protest,” she added.
Green claimed that the incident left her with months of respiratory issues.
“I was in and out of Urgent Care and different respiratory doctors for almost six months, with different inhalers,” she alleged. “Something got aggravated as a result of the tear gas, and I had quite a chronic cough for a long time.”
Green is suing the department for assault, use of excessive force, and First Amendment retaliation, among other allegations of wrongdoing, The St. Louis American reported.
She is seeking punitive damages and vowed to donate any money she is awarded to a racial equality fund that the city has not yet established, according to St. Louis Public Radio.
“If we can not only change our laws and policies as a result of this, but also be providing the funding to start to address racial inequity in our city in a way that actually puts resources behind it, I think that is progress on a lot of levels,” she told the news outlet.
Green said that the city’s unlawful assembly ordinance is currently too “vague” and “contradictory,” The St. Louis American reported.
“No one knows what it means,” she argued. “So, if police don’t know what it means and people exercising their First Amendment rights don’t know what it means, it’s going to set up a situation where people are confused and not abiding by the Constitution.”
“It’s important that we get clear policy on the books,” she concluded.
Green, who is running for the Board of Aldermen’s presidential position, denied speculation that the lawsuit was an attempt to garner attention for her campaign, according to St. Louis Public Radio.
Her lawsuit is one of 15 that have been filed against the St. Louis Police Department with regard to the protests, The St. Louis American reported.
Local FOX2 reporter Elliott Davis seemed dumbfounded by the lawsuit. He posted to Facebook:
"You Pay Aldermen a $37,000 salary, plus just over $4,000 in expense money.
Now taxpayers will pay for for the city to defend this lawsuit. And what Alderwoman Megan Green wins. Taxpayers will have to shell out money for any judgement.
It's truly an amazing development. On the one hand where depending on police to crank up the effort to make our streets safer, and on the other hand we're slapping them down with a lawsuit."