St. Louis police at a 2017 protest of a white former St. Louis police officer found not guilty in the death of a black man, Anthony Lamar Smith.
Photo: Jeff Roberson/AP

The St. Louis Police Department is asking a federal judge to lift an injunction on the department’s ability to declare protests “unlawful” and use chemical agents like pepper spray to break them up, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry issued the preliminary injunction in November 2017 in a case between protesters and the City of St. Louis, filed by the ACLU of Missouri. The case centers around a 2017 protest over Jason Stockley, a white former St. Louis cop, being acquitted of murder in the 2011 police shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man. The protesters claim police used pepper spray against them without warning or provocation during the demonstration.

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In the city’s motion to dismiss the injunction, which was filed Friday in the Eastern District of Missouri, lawyers asked the judge to lift the injunction, arguing the ACLU misleadingly used videos from officers, protesters, and media sources to trick the court into policing the department’s tactics.

“A comprehensive review of the entire video record demonstrates that the St. Louis police on the whole responded to extremely difficult challenges with disciplined effectiveness,” the motion reads.

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“St. Louisans did not experience the violence and terror of full-scale riots, as did Ferguson or Baltimore in similar situations,” it continues. “For this the community (including plaintiffs, though they may not realize it) owes a debt of gratitude to the vast majority of St. Louis police officers.”

In the injunction, the judge specifically banned the use of chemical agents against “expressive, non-violent activity” without providing “clear and unambiguous warnings” to protesters, an opportunity for people to heed those warnings, and probable cause to make an arrest.

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The motion argues that without the ability to declare protests “unlawful” and use chemical weaponry on protesters, the city is in a worse legal position to face civil lawsuits brought by people suing over the department’s behavior—which, good? The lawyers also argue the injunction is no longer necessary because there hasn’t been a mass protest recently. (The document provided by the cops in the motion shows protests as recent as July 2018, so, even if this was a reasonable argument, no dice.)