Protester suing City of Austin, says police ‘pepper sprayed and pushed him’

Austin Protests

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A man who took part in racial injustice protests in May is suing the City of Austin over injuries he claims to have suffered as a result of “police violence,” according to the lawsuit.

Jason Gallagher claims he was pepper sprayed in the face and pushed with a police baton while protesting near the Austin Police Department’s headquarters on May 30.

This was motivated by three defendant police officers’ “disagreement with Gallagher’s message opposing police violence,” the lawsuit claims.

A City of Austin spokesperson released this statement on the lawsuit:

“The city is currently reviewing the claims related to the May 2020 protests. Because there were many individuals involved in the events, it will take time to sort through everything. The Police Department, along with the Office of Police Oversight, and the Law Department will review each claim, and the city will work directly with the individual protesters and their lawyers.”

The alleged incident happened amid large-scale protests in downtown Austin in the days following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

During the demonstration, many protesters made their way onto I-35, disrupting traffic in both directions.

Gallagher’s lawsuit claims that the three defendant officers were standing in a line along the embankment of I-35. Gallagher walked up the embankment and began demonstrating near them.

According to the lawsuit, two of the officers then pepper sprayed him in the face. As he tried to recover, the third officer pushed him in the back with his baton, causing Gallagher to stumble and injure his knee, the suit claims.

The incident was “completely unprovoked and unwarranted,” according to the lawsuit.

It goes on to claim that when other people tried to help Gallagher, the third officer pointed his beanbag shotgun at them.

Two other officers, who were not identified, then sprayed pepper spray over the entire scene “though there was absolutely no threat of violence by any demonstrators assisting Gallagher,” according to the lawsuit.

Gallagher said he believes the officers involved in the incident “have not been disciplined in any way for illegally using force against [him] despite video evidence showing what happened. Thus, the City has ratified their conduct.”

Gallagher is seeking damages for medical expenses, economic damages including loss of earnings, physical pain and mental anguish, impairment, disfigurement and attorneys’ fees.

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