In a letter issued today to incoming Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, the ACLU of Texas expressed its concerns over reports it has received of some HPD officers’ tactics in their interactions with political protestors in the month following the election. Those reports include instances of officers antagonizing and creating unnecessary conflict with protestors, using excessive force, arresting protestors on false charges, and requiring those arrested to wait significantly longer than usual before going before a magistrate.
The following may be attributed to Trisha Trigilio, Staff Attorney of the ACLU of Texas:
“To uphold the rights to free speech and peaceful assembly, we look to our police officers to engage protestors respectfully, avoid creating conflict, and refrain from arresting protestors who do not break the law. The post-election demonstrations are only the beginning; as community groups gather to protest the inauguration and whatever else lies ahead, it’s essential that Chief Acevedo continues his insistence on police departments furthering a culture of professionalism in his department’s ranks.”
The ACLU of Texas plans to deploy volunteer legal observers as neutral witnesses to document police interactions at upcoming demonstrations. Such legal observers are easily identifiable in clearly marked blue vests, and will be present strictly to witness police interactions, not to interfere with them.
The following may be attributed to Terri Burke, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas:
“We congratulate Chief Acevedo on his appointment, and stand ready to assist him as well as every other law enforcement agency in Texas to ensure that the public’s right to protest is vigorously defended. Protecting the freedom of speech is at the very core of our mission, and I expect we’ll be very busy executing that mission over the coming months and years.”