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Black Lives Matter Protesters Sue Omaha Over Suppressed Rights

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some of the people arrested during this past summer of protests are now suing. Police arrested nearly 130 people at a Black Lives Matter event in Omaha. Some say the city mistreated them and trampled on their First Amendment rights. Emily Chen-Newton has this report from Omaha.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

EMILY CHEN-NEWTON, BYLINE: On July 25, a couple of hundred people in Omaha marched in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. This cellphone video shows police arresting them on a highway overpass. Others show police kicking or tackling them and shooting pepper balls into the crowd at close range. Jordan Corbin says he was hit.

JORDAN CORBIN: I remember just being on the corner, having my arms spread out on the window, my legs spread because any movement in my crotch or my arms or my legs or anywhere just felt - it felt like I wanted to die.

CHEN-NEWTON: Protesters also say they were forced into cramped cells within a COVID-19 hot spot - the county jail. The Nebraska ACLU is representing eight people detained in the protest. It's asking a federal court to find that Omaha police misapplied highway obstruction charges this past summer to lock people up and suppress free speech. Adam Sipple is the Nebraska ACLU's legal director.

ADAM SIPPLE: These are vague, overbroad traffic ordinances that should not be weaponized against these protesters to shut down their speech and to orchestrate mass arrests.

CHEN-NEWTON: The ACLU is also asking to halt the use of tear gas on peaceful protesters. City and police officials declined to be interviewed beyond a statement from the city attorney - quote, "The police make every effort to cooperate and protect demonstrators as long as they obey the law and police commands. We look forward to defending the city." Adam Sipple of the ACLU says they'll be taking further legal action in the coming weeks. For

NPR News, I'm Emily Chen-Newton in Omaha.

(SOUNDBITE OF SLEEP MAPS' "BIOLOGIC TRUST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.