The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania announced today that they — along with a co-counsel — have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a local woman who said she was forcefully restrained by her neck by a civil affairs officer who was trying to prevent her from recording Philadelphia cops arresting a protester.
“We have yet to see any indication that the leadership of the Philadelphia Police Department is requiring its officers to respect the First Amendment rights of Philadelphia residents in these situations,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, in a news release. “Until they get it right, we will continue to hold them accountable to the citizens they have sworn an oath to protect.”
The lawsuit involves Amanda Geraci, who was monitoring an anti-fracking protest outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center in 2012. Geraci was a trained legal observer — a volunteer who monitors police and protester interaction. Geraci witnessed police take a protester into handcuffed custody. She walked behind a glass wall to record the incident.
According to the complaint, the police officer in question then "approached her at a full run and threw her up against a pillar on the Convention Center’s facade.”
The lawsuit then says the officer pushed her forearm against Geraci's neck. Then, other police officers surrounded the two to block others from witnessing or recording the use of force, the lawsuit claims.
“I have been a legal observer for eight years at numerous protests and I have never experienced anything like this,” Geraci said in a news release. “I was shocked when Officer Brown pushed me against a column and restrained me by my neck, just for recording the activities of her colleagues as they arrested someone.”
This is the fifth in a series of ACLU-PA lawsuits aimed at stopping the Philadelphia Police Department’s illegal practice of retaliating against individuals who observe or record the police performing their duties.