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Judge denies Phoenix PD’s motion to dismiss protest lawsuit

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Posted at 9:24 AM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 21:57:07-04

A federal judge has denied a motion from the City of Phoenix to dismiss a lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 100 protesters who were swept up and arrested with a copy-and-paste probable cause statement.

Judge Susan Brnovich’s order means many of the claims against the Phoenix Police Department, Chief Jeri Williams, and individual officers will continue.

The lawsuit was filed in May 2021 – a year after protests erupted across the county in response to George Floyd’s murder.

On May 30, 2020, Phoenix police arrested 124 people in the downtown area and booked all of them into jail with the same generic probable cause statement.

The statement didn’t include any information about the specific defendants and didn’t include their names or the specific allegations against them.

Judges tossed the cases at the defendants’ initial appearances for lacking sufficient evidence.

At the time, ABC15 questioned Chief Williams about the issue following the arrests.

“There’s always a concern when there are no charges. But at the end of the day, I do know that my officers were functioning under justice, under trying to protect public safety, because our number 1 priority is safety,” Williams said. “ So you’re talking about pulling people out of cars, those cars were used to help fortify and give guns, knives, [Williams stopped and corrected herself as she didn’t mean to say guns and knives] rocks and bottles, water, food, to those individuals who were absolutely there to commit crimes.”

Defense attorneys said those claims were false and “trumped up.”

RELATED: Top cops say Phoenix Police Chief Williams misled public about protest scandal 

The mass-arrest lawsuit is one of the multiple civil cases facing the City of Phoenix regarding how officers treated protesters.

In protest cases throughout 2020, ABC15 found Phoenix police officers and Maricopa County prosecutors routinely exaggerated and lied about the circumstances.

In one notorious example, officials falsely claimed a group of protesters were a criminal street gang. Those protesters have also combined to file a lawsuit.

Contact ABC15 Chief Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com.