Metro Louisville

The ACLU of Kentucky, the NAACP and others have filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) and the city over what plaintiffs say is an “excessive use of force” against protesters. The ACLU and NAACP are representing several plaintiffs, including Kentucky state representative Attica Scott, who have participated in protests in downtown Louisville over the police killing of Breonna Taylor.

“Rather than treating its peaceful protesters as important parts of the democratic process protected by the Constitution, the City of Louisville has chosen to forcibly silence them—often using military-type weapons and tactics that resemble those used by authoritarian regimes to stifle dissent,” the complaint reads.

The complaint alleges LMPD violated protesters’ First Amendment rights to peaceful protest and Fourth Amendment rights to be free from excessive use of force when officers used crowd-control weapons and tactics such as tear gas, pepper bullets and batons on protesters.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to stop LMPD from further use of crowd-control weapons on peaceful protesters, and to require the city to create policies that restrict use of force to situations in which a person faces, “imminent risk of serious physical danger.”

Plaintiffs are also seeking damages, and attorney’s fees.

“The police were ridiculously violent against us. Ridiculously,” Rep. Attica Scott (D-Louisville) told WFPL News.

According to the complaint, Scott and her daughter were protesting peacefully downtown on May 29, when an officer shoved Scott, causing her to fall and injure her knee. The complaint alleges LMPD tear-gassed the crowd without warning while Scott was seeking medical attention.

Another plaintiff, Corbin Smith, alleges an LMPD officer knelt on his neck, and that others beat him with batons when he was arrested for peacefully demonstrating on May 31.

The actions of LMPD have had a “chilling effect” on protesters’ willingness to peacefully assemble, according to the complaint. Several plaintiffs say the police violence they experienced or witnessed left them too afraid to return to future demonstrations.

The Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression is also named as a plaintiff. The group, which has helped organize many of the protests, says its members have been harmed by LMPD while peacefully protesting, and that the money and staff time the Alliance has spent responding to excessive force has prevented the group from engaging in other activities.

In addition, the complaint alleges that LMPD officers were responsible for the shooting of seven people during the first night of protests on May 28. LMPD has previously said that no officers fired their weapons.

In addition to Louisville Metro Government and LMPD, Mayor Greg Fischer, interim Chief of Police Robert Schroeder, assistant Chief of Police LaVita Chavous, and several LMPD officers are named as defendants.

The allegations only represent one side of the case. A spokesperson for Louisville Metro did not immediately respond to request for comment.

This story will be updated.

Ryan Van Velzer contributed to this reporting.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.