Suit by protester kicked by officer heading to federal court

August 30, 2020 GMT

ERIE, Pa. (AP) — A lawsuit filed by a protester seen on video being kicked by a police officer during civil unrest in the northwestern Pennsylvania city of Erie is likely on its way to federal court rather than county court, attorneys said.

The Erie Times-News reports that Erie attorneys said in a petition filed last week that the case belongs in federal court since it alleges violation of protester Hannah Silbaugh’s constitutional rights regarding unreasonable seizure, substantive due process and excessive force.


Her attorney, Timothy McNair, said he has no plans to object to the petition and believes the judge is all but certain to allow the transfer. He said he initially sued in county court because he believed his client might have a better chance of getting a jury trial in the state system.

“If I had my druthers, it would stay in state court, but I don’t see that happening,” McNair said.

The May 30 altercation happened during nationwide demonstrations following the killing of George Floyd. Police said several hundred people descended on City Hall at night and began spray painting the building, breaking windows, pulling parking meters out of the ground, vandalizing shops and restaurants and throwing objects at police. Officers used tear gas and tried to disperse the crowd.

In the video, the officer is seen approaching Silbaugh as she is seated in the middle of the street and kicking her over. Silbaugh filed an internal affairs complaint alleging that the officer assaulted her by kicking her.

Prosecutors announced in July that the officer will not face any criminal charges, and neither will the protester. District Attorney Jack Daneri said the officer, who has not been identified by city officials, had the right to use that kind of force under the circumstances. He said police and a law enforcement vehicle needed to get past a line of protesters to address more serious violence in the area.