Judge denies Virginia ACLU’s request to bar irritant use

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A judge has denied an emergency request by lawyers from Virginia’s branch of the American Civil Liberties Union to bar police from using chemical irritants or other devices to disperse protesters.

Richmond Circuit Judge Beverly Snukals wrote in a seven-page order Tuesday that granting ACLU’s request would bring an “unwanted intrusion” into the work of law enforcement, and interfere with their ability to do their jobs, news outlets reported.

The ruling comes a day after Snukals heard arguments from ACLU attorneys representing the organizers in the Virginia Student Power Network, and city attorneys who argued against the order.

The ACLU will “continue to fight in court to bring justice to people who are speaking out against systemic, anti-Black racism by continuing to pursue this lawsuit,” the organization said in a statement after the ruling was issued.

The lawsuit claimed Richmond police violated protesters’ constitutional rights to speech when they declared an unlawful assembly during a protest on June 23, and then used chemical irritants and rubber bullets to remove the demonstrators from the area.

That night, Richmond police posted on Twitter the demonstrations were deemed unlawful “due to conditions of activity such as sit-ins, sit-downs, blocking traffic, blocking entrances or exits of buildings that impact public safety or infrastructure.”

Instead of granting the order, Snukals wrote in the ruling protesters that have an option to “protest without unlawful force” or “disrupting or jeopardizing public peace and order,” the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

The case could possibly go to trial for a final ruling, Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, told the newspaper.

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