Judge tosses $40 million civil rights lawsuit over police tactics in Ferguson

A federal judge has tossed out a $40 million lawsuit filed by Malik Shabazz on behalf of protesters who claimed their civil rights were violated in Ferguson, MO in the aftermath of the shooting of Mike Brown. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey on Friday ruled in favor of summary judgment motions filed by police, police officials, St. Louis County and the City of Ferguson. The order appeared publicly in electronic court files Monday, the same day that lawyers for protesters filed a notice that they would appeal.

In his order, Autrey said that the protesters who filed the suit“have completely failed to present any credible evidence that any of the actions taken by these individuals were taken with malice or were committed in bad faith.”

What the judge actually found was that some of the plaintiffs in the case had made false claims which did not match up with video of the incidents. For instance, Tracey White claimed she was roughly arrested at a McDonalds while waiting with her son for her husband to pick them up. Here’s how the Post-Dispatch reported the story when the lawsuit was filed back in 2014:

Tracey White, 38, said she and her 17-year-old son were arrested Aug. 13 at the Ferguson McDonald’s after attending a “Peace and Love Rally.” The pair were waiting to be picked up by White’s husband when police bearing rifles rushed in, she said.

“It looked like something out of a movie. It was so horrifying,” she said.

She said she was thrown to the ground and arrested for “failure to disperse” when she protested the treatment of her son. He was arrested when she tried to give him the iPad she was carrying, Matthews said. They were released four to five hours later in Clayton.

And here’s what actually happened as reported by the Post-Dispatch today:

Videos showed that she was actually arrested a block away. “She agreed that video showed an officer placing hand ties on her, and that she was not on the ground, and that there was no knee in her back,” Autrey wrote. “No racial epithets or slurs were used against Tracey White.”

More generally, Judge Autrey concludes that police were following orders to disperse the crowd and that plaintiffs were given a chance to disperse before being arrested:

These plaintiffs were a part of the greater sea of humanity that had converged upon the City of Ferguson, some of whom were throwing various objects at police with the intent to cause harm. It is undisputed in the record that the individual defendants were reacting to their orders to arrest those that did not disperse, and more importantly were reacting to the threats of harm to themselves and the people, who were otherwise peaceable and following orders to disperse gathered, in the streets. They acted without malice or bad faith; they clearly had arguable probable cause to arrest any individual who refused to comply with the orders to disperse.

Malik Zulu Shabazz is the founder of Black Lawyers for Justice, the group that filed the lawsuit. Shabazz is the former chairman of the New Black Panther Party (until Oct. 2013) which promotes militant black nationalism. Shabazz was criticized by some Ferguson pastors for inciting violence:

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Jazz Shaw 10:01 PM on January 31, 2023