June 16, 2020 – Class Action suit filed against Richmond Police Department Officers for violations of citizens 1st Amendment Right to peacefully protest and petition the government and for 4th Amendment Right against excessive use of force arising from the actions of the RPD on Monday June 1, 2020.
Since the City of Richmond has already apologized, people ask, “Why the suit?” RPD continues to use tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters. In the words of federal 4th Circuit Judge Henry F. Floyd in a recent civil rights opinion, “This has to stop!” Attorney Andrew Bodoh stated “This suit is about transparency and accountability. Hundreds—maybe thousands—of peaceful protesters were affected by the police actions on Lee Circle. Now, more than two weeks later, there has been no disclosures about why the police to act in this way. We do not want silence. We want the officers to explain themselves to the public. It is, after all, the public that they serve and the public that they harmed.” Civil Rights Attorney Tom Roberts explained, “This class action will bring justice for all those peaceful protesters by giving them the last word despite the police officers’ attempts to silence them! This lawsuit is the essence of protected activity under the 1st Amendment – a petition to the government asking the judiciary to bring into check the police who fall into the executive branch of our government.”
The apology from the City of Richmond has not stopped the use of unreasonable force, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets upon citizens critical of the Richmond Police, most of whom are peacefully protesting with arms raised in the air. The aggression and response to the criticism of the Richmond Police only proves the point – the officers must be held accountable and in check by the judiciary.
The lawsuit names 5 class representatives, all Richmond residents: Jarrod Blackwood, Megan Blackwood, Ryan Tagg, Christopher Gayler and Keenan Angel who have filed suit for their own claims against the Richmond Police officers and also as class representatives for the hundreds of other peaceful protesters whose rights were violated on Monday June 1, 2020.
Jarrod Blackwood is an African American lawyer and graduate of University of Richmond Law School who was present with his wife Megan Blackwood. After the tear gas was launched, fearing for their personal safety and thinking of their child, they ended their protest and left the park. Megan Blackwood was one of those kneeling on the front line before the assault by RPD.
Ryan Tagg protesting racial and human right injustices experienced the burning of tear gas in his eyes and mouth and eventually retreated against the aggression of the police.
Christopher Gayler, outraged by the Floyd murder and the unjust scale and brutality of police responses to protests in Richmond also experienced the burning of tear gas in his eyes, nose, throat and lungs with difficulty breathing as he protested the murder of Floyd by restricting his breathing.
Keenan Angel, a biracial resident of Virginia, protesting racism, the effects of racism personal to him, was also assaulted by RPD while kneeling with his hands in the air.
THIS HAS TO STOP!
The suit is filed on behalf of these five plaintiffs and the following class: Any individual, excluding on-duty law enforcement personnel, present at Lee Circle (to include the enclosed park, the street, and the immediately adjacent road verge and sidewalks) in Richmond, Virginia, on June 1, 2020, to engage in a protected, First Amendment activity, and who witnessed, and was injured by or threatened by, the acts of violence or threats of violence perpetrated by Richmond Police officers, employees, or agents, at any time in the ten minute period beginning when Richmond Police openly trained firearms on the gathered assembly at approximately 7:32 p.m. The suit seeks to further delineate two sub-classes, those suffering from physical contact whether force, pepper spray or tear gas and those deterred in their 1st Amendment rights by the threat of such force and violence.
Plaintiffs will first identify the officers involved and bring them into the action as named defendants. A motion has been filed seeking a court order permitting plaintiffs to issue limited discovery for that information immediately pursuant to the rules of the court – FRCP 26(d)(1) and (f). Then the plaintiffs will ask the court to certify the class. After that, the lawyers with Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, PC will begin the in-depth discovery behind the blue-wall to provide transparency for the jury and the citizens of Richmond. Finally, they will work to obtain a resolution of this case whether by settlement or the verdict of a jury to bring a stop to this behavior and to provide relief to those wronged by the violations of the Constitution. On 6/17/2020, the case was reassigned to Judge Novak. On 6/18/2020, Judge Novak consolidated the case with that of a woman who was detained by police at the protest who had filed her action a few days before the class action. “Although consolidation is permitted as a matter of convenience and economy in administration, it . . . does not merge the suits into a single cause, or change the rights of the parties, or make those who are parties in one suit parties in another.” Intown Properties Management, Inc. v. Wheaton Van Lines, Inc., 271 F.3d 164, 168 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing Johnson v. Manhattan Ry. Co., 289 U.S. 479, 496-97, 53 S. Ct. 721, 77 L. Ed. 1331 (1933)). Smith v. Ray, 409 F. App’x 641, 646 (4th Cir. 2011)
The law firm of Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, PC has been a leader in civil rights in Virginia since 1986. Some of the notable court cases include the suit against the Town of Front Royal for discrimination against its two black employees resulting in justice and a public apology by the Town. In another suit, the law firm represented two deputies with the Fairfax County Sheriff’s office who experienced systemic racism and discrimination within the department. The firm has represented many plaintiffs protecting their 1st Amendment rights. In another suit before the Virginia Court of Appeals, the law firm obtained the reversal of a conviction by an individual protesting the police in Petersburg. In 2015, the firm obtained a jury verdict against a Pamunkey Regional Corrections officer for excessive use of force against an old combat veteran, decorated with 4 bronze stars for valor in combat, who grabbed a towel to warm himself. In 2016, involving Facebook posts, the law firm secured a 4th Circuit opinion declaring the Petersburg Police Social Media Policy unconstitutional, which intended to silence criticism of police departments. On January 16, 2020, the law firm obtained from the Virginia Supreme Court the reversal of civil rights claims against a Petersburg officer who used excessive force against a small black woman in a traffic stop.
The plaintiffs in the class action are represented by Tom Roberts, Esq. and Andrew Bodoh, Esq. of Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, PC. The law firm has a team approach to most of their cases. Theodore Tymowski, J.D. Candidate at George Washington University Law School, and summer associate at the firm stated, “It’s heart wrenching to hear from protesters who want to support the case but are too afraid of police retaliation to pursue legal action as named plaintiffs. Sometimes people need lawyers to speak up for them and I know that the attorneys at this firm will bring the full weight of the judicial system to bear to bring transparency and accountability. Working at this firm has been fulfilling and exciting. This law firm has some of the most seasoned attorneys I have ever met. I am confident that their experience and zeal will see this case resolved successfully.”
You need experienced counsel.
You should contact a lawyer with the law firm of Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, P.C. today. Call 804-783-2000
Thomas H. Roberts, Esq.
Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, P.C.
105 S 1st Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
(804) 783-2105 fax
The materials are prepared for information purposes only. The materials are not legal advice. You should not act upon the information without seeking the advice of an attorney. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship.