A group of protesters has sued the Seattle government, arguing that “unmitigated police violence” has imposed a monetary cost on their right to demonstrate freely, forcing them to buy expensive gear to safely confront the cops.

Filed by five plaintiffs who took part in ongoing protests in Seattle, the suit seeks a temporary restraining order barring the city’s police department from wielding force and crowd control munitions on demonstrators, alleging heavy-handed police tactics have made “safe protest prohibitive,” as “one needs an exceptional amount of protective gear to enjoy that freedom.”

“Because the Seattle Police Department has acted above and outside the law in dispensing its unbridled force, and the city has failed to prevent [the] same, the… effect is to establish a de facto protest tax,” attorney Talitha Hazelton wrote in the complaint, filed on Monday.

Individual protesters subjected to SPD’s unabated and indiscriminate violence now must purchase cost-prohibitive gear to withstand munitions – even when peacefully protesting – as a condition to exercising their right to free speech and peaceable assembly.

While a blanket ban on less-lethal munitions recently imposed by the city was struck down by a court in late July, a separate court injunction restricting their use remains in place. The prior suit was brought by local Black Lives Matter activists, who have since asked the judge in the case to hold the SDP in contempt of the standing order, alleging officers had continued to use crowd control weapons indiscriminately, including tear gas and pepper spray.

Responding to Monday’s suit, the Seattle Attorney’s Office said it would “look into these new claims,” adding that it intended to “defend the city in this matter,” according to spokesman Dan Nolte. Chief Judge Ricardo Martinez will preside over the case.

Protests in Seattle erupted in late May, on the heels of the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who lost his life during a botched arrest in Minneapolis. The demonstrations have frequently escalated into violent clashes between activists and officers, at one point seeing police abandon their East Precinct in the Capitol Hill neighborhood for several weeks as protesters established CHOP – or the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest. Though the makeshift activist-encampment-slash-anarchist-commune was disbanded after a string of fatal shootings in the zone, anti-police brutality protests continue to rage on in the city.

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