- Associated Press - Monday, July 13, 2015

CLEVELAND (AP) - Four people arrested by Cleveland police during a protest in May over the acquittal of a police officer claimed in a federal lawsuit filed Monday that they didn’t hear orders to disperse or could not leave because officers in riot gear had trapped them in a downtown alley.

The four - a medical student, a college journalism major, a convenience store cashier and an environmental activist - said in the lawsuit filed by the ACLU that they were held for two days in city jails despite judges being on call the night of May 23 to process anyone arrested during widely expected demonstrations.

The protests came after a judge acquitted patrolman Michael Brelo on manslaughter charges for his role in a deadly 137-shot barrage of police gunfire in 2012 that killed two unarmed black people. Dozens of people marched through downtown Cleveland and city neighborhoods with a large contingent of officers in front and behind them.

Officers in riot gear appeared that evening after a confrontation near a popular dining district. About 70 people were later arrested in an alley that bisects two streets in Cleveland’s Warehouse District.

The lawsuit said a deputy police chief was later asked why the protesters were arrested and not issued citations.

“It doesn’t make sense to cite and release protesters and let them back out on the streets to protest again,” Dornat Drummond said.

A city spokesman declined to discuss the lawsuit.

Three of the protesters pleaded no contest on May 25 to misdemeanor charges of failure to disperse and disorderly conduct and were sentenced to time served. A fourth protester pleaded not guilty. His charges were dismissed June 16 after a city prosecutor said a video showed that he was taking photographs and wasn’t being disorderly.

The lawsuit said police actions that night impeded people’s right to engage in peaceful protest and assembly and led to unlawful arrests and illegal detentions. The suit asks for damages and legal fees and an order stopping police from silencing future protests.

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