Protest Injuries Prompt Suit Against Santa Rosa Police, City

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In the wake of almost two weeks of marches and protests against police brutality in Santa Rosa, two Sonoma County demonstrators who were injured by police projectiles have filed a class action lawsuit against the city and the Santa Rosa PD.

Marqus Martinez and Michaela Staggs were hit in the face by projectiles during late-night protests on May 31st and June 1st.  On Tuesday they filed suit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, seeking to bar the police from using the same crowd control projectiles and tactics against demonstrators in the future.

The filing also seeks the judge’s permission to go ahead with a class action lawsuit, allowing the pair to represent and bring in other protesters who were injured with police projectiles, or were subjected to tactics like the use of tear gas.

For its part, the city of Santa Rosa responded through a city attorney who denied the claims, saying the police used restraint, and never resorted to force until some protesters turned violent.

However the attorney representing the claimants, Izaak Schwaiger of Sebastopol, says his clients were never violent but were simply exercising their constitutional first amendment rights.

Although the Santa Rosa protests were overwhelmingly peaceful, some violence and vandalism took place after nightfall when a few protesters and others in “sideshows” not connected to the march engaged in incidents of graffiti and smashing windows.

In the wake of the local and nationwide protests, city of Santa Rosa mayor Tom Schwedhelm and police chief Ray Navarro have pledged to enact at least some of the so called “8 Can’t Wait” reforms, a series of steps that address the use of force, de-escalation, and police department review and oversight.   The city has also pledged to involve a diverse segment of the community in a discussion of changes to how local law enforcement officers do their jobs.

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