One of the suits accuses the officers of throwing tear gas and firing rubber bullets at peaceful protesters as they marched on the highway. Another says the police used tanks, rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas in a Black residential and business district. They injured residents who were in or near their homes.
“They were just opening fire on anybody they saw, for hours and hours, regardless of any conduct or justification,” said Bret Grote, legal director of the Abolitionist Law Center. “They were shooting children. They were shooting old people. They were shooting residents on their own street. They were gassing the firefighters.”
Mayor Jim Kenney said that the city will conduct an independent investigation of all situations and hold all of the officers involved accountable.
“I am highly concerned about what transpired on both I-676 and 52nd Street and I fully regret the use of tear gas and some other use of force in those incidents,” Kenney said.
The lawsuits, which involve over 140 plaintiffs, were filed by civil rights attorneys in the city, the law center and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. They were announced on the same day that Philadelphia Managing Director Brian Abernathy resigned.
Video footage from last month showed officers firing tear gas at dozens of protesters who were trapped on the highway. The demonstrators were forced to climb over a concrete wall and fence to escape.
Shahidah Mubarak-Hadi, one of the plaintiffs, said her young children were hurt after police tear gassed their home. “Officers violated the sanctity of our home, without forethought, senselessly firing tear gas around our residence while we were inside,” she said. “My children and I no longer feel safe in our own house.”