Protesters file lawsuit against Salt Lake City

Oct 12, 2021, 7:02 PM | Updated: 10:05 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — More than a dozen people who were protesting in downtown Salt Lake City over the death of George Floyd in May of 2020 have filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming their civil rights were violated.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Oct. 8, lists 14 Utah residents as plaintiffs. They are represented by attorney Brian Jackson.

“The First Amendment is a very powerful constitutional right and the Supreme Court of the United States has always come out to protect that,” Jackson said in an interview with KSL-TV.

The protests started peaceful on Saturday, May 30, 2020, but later, resulted in violence and vandalism, including graffiti painted on the Utah State Capitol Building, a burned police car and broken windows on downtown buildings.

Officials said 46 people were arrested and 21 officers were injured, KSL-TV reported at the time. Police later said 24 officers were injured that day.

Jackson said the 72-hour curfew put in place by Mayor Erin Mendenhall should have been a last resort and that the order was signed just 20 minutes before going into place.

“I think the actions of the City specifically show that they had a purpose to move people — which infringes on liberty and free speech as well,” Jackson said.

The lawsuit claims Mendenhall’s curfew order was unlawful.

“The curfew order wholly denied free speech and the right to assemble on all public places,” the lawsuit said. “It was not narrowly tailored with narrow objective standards required under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

In response to the lawsuit, a Salt Lake City spokesperson issued a statement, saying the city believes Mendenhall and police department acted lawfully and appropriately.

“We believe the City’s curfew and actions were proper and lawful given the nature of events on May 30 and June 1, 2020,” the statement said. “We are confident that the Mayor acted within her legal authority to issue the emergency curfew and the Salt Lake City Police Department acted appropriately during the civil unrest of May 30 and June 1.”

Jackson said some of his clients were hit by rubber bullets and unlawfully arrested. He described the curfew as too broad and overarching.

“It violated everyone’s free speech, not only just the protesters, but everyone in the city of Salt Lake was under this curfew order,” he said.

The lawsuit requests a jury trial and is seeking damages and reimbursement for attorney fees.

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Protesters file lawsuit against Salt Lake City