Cincinnati Police Have 'Escalated Lawful Protests into Chaos' with Unjustified Use of Chemical Weapons, Says Ohio NLG

Legal observers from the Ohio Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild report "police have repeatedly attacked demonstrators engaged in lawful, peaceful protest without warning" using tear gas, spray, pepper ball guns and flash-bang grenades

Jun 4, 2020 at 10:04 am
An image from Friday night's demonstration and protest - Photo: Nick Swartsell
Photo: Nick Swartsell
An image from Friday night's demonstration and protest

The National Lawyers Guild is an over-80-year-old alternative bar association whose mission is to use "law for the people, uniting lawyers, law students, legal workers, and jailhouse lawyers to function as an effective force in the service of the people by valuing human rights and the rights of ecosystems over property interests."

You may have seen some of the guild's Ohio Chapter members at recent protests and demonstrations in neon green T-shirts or hats with the words "legal observer" on them. Self-declared anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-racist, their members attend protests to monitor the actions of police and they also educate protesters about their rights through their programs

So, now that you know who they are (if you didn't before), here's what they had to say about the events they observed recently in Cincinnati in a release issued June 1: 

"In Cincinnati, Ohio NLG members state that police have repeatedly attacked demonstrators engaged in lawful, peaceful protest without warning. (CPD) police have time after time needlessly escalated lawful protests into chaos with unprovoked and unjustified use of chemical weapons, including tear gas, OC spray, and pepper ball guns, with flash-bang grenades, and other tools for brutality. On several occasions, (CPD) and other police agencies have pushed protesters off or out of public forums while they attempted to exercise First Amendment rights. Two nights in a row, CPD made mass arrests after separating protesters from each other, trapping people in alleys, and arresting people without warning. Arrests now total around 300, and include unfounded and trumped-up charges. Arrested people have been held for hours on end in buses and parking lots and report continuing verbal abuse from police while medical emergencies remain untreated. On May 31, Hamilton County Sheriff's deputies took down the American flag flying at the Justice Center—and in its place, raised the flag with the thin blue line—signaling clearly that the police here are anti-Black. Attorney Jacquelin Greene, Ohio NLG representative in Cincinnati and partner at the law firm of Friedman & Gilbert, states, 'Cincinnati's shameful history of racist policing and brutality continues today in the streets, but the people are standing together to end it. We will fight for their rights to be safe and free from the violence of police and the criminal legal system.'"

The release also includes information about the militarized response in Cleveland and extended unlawful curfew, and violence against demonstrators in Columbus, as well as the events in Toledo and Dayton.

CPD has previously said they have not used tear gas on protesters, only pepper bullets and OC spray (like a pepper spray). This release would indicate otherwise based on reports from the legal observer (although their information about how the American flag was removed from the Justice Center seems to conflict with other reports about it being taken down by protesters on Friday night).

There have also been posts on social media contradicting CPD.

The Ohio NLG release ends saying, "These police departments are engaged in conduct designed to chill free speech and to intimidate the peope of Ohio out of expressing their outrage at historic and ongoing racism and brutailty in policing. These uses of force and unfounded charges violate fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution."

They want departments to hold police accountable for their actions and said their legal observers will continue to be in the streets to document police misconduct. They also said they have hotline support available if you arrested during a demonstration at 614-654-6477 (614-NLG-OH77) or 216-5050-NLG (654).