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Protester sues police, city for injuries from gas grenade

June 15, 2021 GMT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A woman who says she was seriously injured when a tear gas grenade struck her head last year during a protest after the killing of George Floyd is suing New Orleans police and city officials.

Katharine Archer’s federal suit says she needed 12 stitches to close a gash in her forehead suffered as she and her college-age daughters protested. It also says her tailbone was broken when the force of the blow knocked her down.

“In the resulting stampede as protesters fled, Ms. Archer’s daughters struggled to help her move away from the chemical clouds of tear gas and flying munitions,” the lawsuit says. “As blood poured down their mother’s face, they screamed for help. No member of NOPD came to their assistance.”

The lawsuit was filed June 3 — one year after police fired tear gas and rubber projectiles as some protesters tried to cross a bridge.

The protest was one of many around the nation after the death of Floyd, a Black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police. Former Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted this year of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in the May 25, 2020, death of Floyd, who was pinned to the ground for about 9½ minutes.

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New Orleans officials have not filed a response to Archer’s lawsuit, or to one filed in April by three protesters seeking class action status on behalf of other protesters affected by the police actions during the June 3, 2020, protest.

In December, the New Orleans Police Department announced a new policy that tear gas and other specialized weapons should only be used as a last resort when life is in danger.

Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said at the time that the change was made after an internal investigation found “failures” occurred when police used tear gas and shot foam pellets and rubber balls at hundreds of people on the approach to the Crescent City Connection bridge.

Ferguson cited “a lack of planning and tactical decision-making” in the police response.

Archer’s lawsuit was filed by attorneys with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center in New Orleans. The April lawsuit was filed by attorneys working with the Justice Lab project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana.