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GOP Convention Suit Dismissed; Officers Given Qualified Immunity

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By Dyanna Quizon, Esq. on January 17, 2012 3:07 PM

The Republican Party may be known to be conservative, but its National Convention in 2008 was anything but unadventurous, with the reported arrests of 800 people.

The Eighth Circuit upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by 32 of those people arrested on opening day of the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The plaintiffs, comprised of protestors, legal observers, medics, the media and innocent bystanders, alleged that the police violated their constitutional rights to free speech and freedom from unreasonable seizures. Their case was dismissed in a lower court in 2010.

The defendants claimed the police were outnumbered by protestors, who were shown on video wearing gas masks and taunting the police. The plaintiffs countered that police did not have probable cause to make the arrests and used unreasonable force, such as fire stinger balls and chemical irritant spray, to push a crowd of 400 people into a park.

The Eighth Circuit ruled against the plaintiffs in their decision on Friday, granting the police qualified immunity because they had "arguable probable cause" to make the arrests during a "precarious situation" involving the unruly protestors and bystanders caught in the cross-fire.

Although most of those detained were not protestors, the court held that the investigative detention was "reasonably necessary to achieve the purpose of the temporary seizure." The court also noted that all were released within 72 hours and all charges against the group were eventually dismissed.

The Eighth Circuit also dismissed the plaintiffs' First Amendment retaliation claim and its claim against the city of St. Paul as insufficient.

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