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ACLU of Indiana seeks court injunction to end what it calls ‘unreasonable force against protest activities’

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is making new demands of police in Fort Wayne and Allen County, expanding one lawsuit and filing for a court injunction to boost protections for Black Lives Matter protesters.

A lawsuit against the City of Fort Wayne and Allen County Sheriff has been expanded to include new plaintiffs and is asking the Court to ensure protesters can continue to demonstrate while the case plays out.

The suit is put forth by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of some of those who were arrested or injured in recent demonstrations that led to clashes with police.

It now includes 13 individuals as plaintiffs.

The amended filing also notes that children were affected by the use of tear gas and other agents that were deployed.

One of the plaintiffs -- Matt Carmer -- said he took his child to the initial demonstration on May 29 to teach him about the rights Americans have to protest, as well as about racism.

The lawsuit claims that Carmer was at Freimann Square when "chemical clouds that the police had caused descended on him and his child."

It continues: "He and his child ran to the far end of Freimann Square, attempting to get as far away from the Courthouse Green as possible. His child was terrified and stated that the police were coming to kill them."

Taylor Crane was one of the initial plaintiffs.

One week ago, Crane was arrested based on a police review of online video from May 29. The video shows Crane standing in the street during an interview.

Fort Wayne police arrested him at his place of work on two misdemeanor counts one month later.

Crane believes he was targeted for his activism. The lawsuit provides his account of his protest activities.

The plaintiffs also filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction that would limit what local law enforcement could do as the Court considers the lawsuit.

The motion asks a judge to prevent the City and sheriff's office from "taking any actions designed to interfere with or stop lawful protest activities" and from "utilizing objectively unreasonable force against protest activities, including, but not limited to, employing tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades, and rubber bullets."

Crane told us why he thinks the injunction is so important.

"It would allow protesters to feel more comfortable going out and peacefully protesting without having to fear that the Fort Wayne Police Department or Allen County Sheriff's Department would use those tactics against them, and if they did…the departments did choose to do those things, they would have some severe repurcussions for doing such," Crane said.

Long-time court mediator Dan Sigler, who has no connection to the court cases in question, believes the two sides would be well advised to work towards an agreement on the injunction outside the presence of a judge.

"Because we know there's going to be in every community…there's probably going to be more protests, it's in the air, it's going on, let's keep everybody safe and keep everybody sensible, and the best way to do that is have the parties talk and try to resolve it themselves," Sigler said in an interview by telephone.

The case has been filed in Northern District of Indiana in the federal court system.

Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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