Penn professor Anne Berg filed a lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia and the Police Department over allegations of police brutality at a protest following the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr. in October.
Berg, who teaches history, was serving as a legal observer when a police officer lunged at her and struck her with a baton, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Berg, another legal observer Catherine Heite, and peaceful protestor Bridget Biddle filed the lawsuit last week, alleging that they were physically assaulted and mistreated by Philadelphia Police Department officers.
The lawsuit seeks both compensatory and punitive damages from the Philadelphia Police Department, WHYY reported.
“The [civil affairs] police all know me. They all know who we are, what we do, and why we’re there. I have no doubt that the officers the night after Walter Wallace Jr. was murdered knew who we were also,” Berg told the Inquirer. “That was a situation where they clearly did not care. [The police] were beating people indiscriminately.”
Berg and Heite attended the protests as “legal observers,” volunteers tasked with monitoring public demonstrations for civil rights violations. Both wore bright hats or shirts that clearly marked them as such, the Inquirer reported.
“These kinds of lawsuits are designed both to vindicate the violations of the rights of the plaintiffs — in this case, Ms. Berg, Heite, and Biddle,— but also, and very importantly to the plaintiffs, to try to convince the city and the police department to take steps so that these kinds of incidents do not recur,” Paul Messing, the civil rights lawyer representing the plaintiffs, told WHYY.
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