Judge blocks new panhandling law from taking effect

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge has blocked Indiana's new tougher anti-panhandling law the day before it was to take effect.

The preliminary injunction issued Tuesday called the Republican-backed law "an unconstitutional prohibition on the freedom of speech." U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson ordered it could not be enforced while the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana proceeds.

The new law aimed to prohibit people from requesting money within 50 feet of sites such as ATMs, business and restaurant entrances, public monuments or the location of a financial transaction, which includes parking meters.

The ACLU argued that would essentially make it a crime to panhandle anywhere in the downtown areas of Indianapolis or other Indiana cities. The group maintained the new law was so restrictive that its staff could not solicit contributions for memberships on Monument Circle in Indianapolis each Sept. 17 on Constitution Day.

Magnus-Stinson wrote that the state attorney general's office failed to provide evidence linking panhandling to business disruptions or escalations to criminal behavior.

"This case is not a close call, because Defendants submit no evidence whatsoever to support the notion that the statute furthers a compelling governmental interest," Magnus-Stinson said.

Police: Protesters block Clark Memorial Bridge; 33 arrested

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Police brutality protesters blocked a bridge connecting Kentucky to Indiana for three hours before police dispersed the crowd and arrested 33 people.

Protesters blocked lanes on the Clark Memorial Bridge Monday morning, bringing traffic to a standstill, news outlets reported.

The bridge, which connects Louisville, Kentucky, to Jeffersonville is one of the only toll-free bridges crossing the Ohio River, according to news outlets.

Indiana officials contacted Louisville authorities around 11 a.m.

Protesters set up signs and banners on the road with images of Breonna Taylor, a black woman shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police officers who were performing a no-knock warrant.

Police spokesman Lamont Washington said police reached protesters around 1 p.m. and asked the crowd to disperse. Washington said 33 people were arrested after not following disperse orders.

Tow trucks removed 19 vehicles that were being used to stop traffic flow.

MetroSafe, Louisville's emergency services division, said the bridge reopened just before 3 p.m.

Protests continued in Louisville at Jefferson Square Park, where Tyler Gerth, 27, was fatally shot at a protest Saturday.

Women sue 4 Indianapolis officers, claiming excessive force

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two women have filed an excessive force lawsuit against four Indianapolis police officers after video was released of officers using batons and pepper balls to subdue the women at a protest last month over the death of George Floyd.

Ivoré Westfield and Rachel Harding, both of Marion County, filed the federal lawsuit June 26 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Three Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers and one sergeant — all named as "John Does" — are listed as defendants. The names of the officers involved in the incident have not been released.

According to the lawsuit, the women are seeking damages, attorney's fees and litigation expenses.

Westfield and Harding were taken into custody shortly before 9 p.m. on May 31 in downtown Indianapolis. The lawsuit states that Harding and Westfield were approached for violating curfew but that they remained passive and cooperative with officers.

Video of the arrest, recorded by WISH-TV, shows Westfield, who is black, being held from behind by a white male officer, escaping his grasp and then being surrounded by several other officers. There were audible pops and several clouds of spray near Westfield, which the lawsuit contends were caused by detonated pepper balls. Two officers struck her with batons until she fell to the ground, and she was then pinned face-down by a baton at the back of her neck.

Harding, who is white, could be seen and heard in the video shouting, "Why her? Why her?" Another officer then rushed Harding and shoved her to the ground, where officers subdued her.

Officers recommended charging Harding with violating the curfew order, a misdemeanor, according to the lawsuit. They also recommended charging Westfield with felony battery against a public safety official, resisting law enforcement and a misdemeanor violation of the curfew order.

The lawsuit states that the Marion County Prosecutor declined to file charges against either woman.

The police department declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Police Chief Randal Taylor said June 5 that as part of the department's investigation into the officers' actions, it was looking at how they were trained to respond to heated public protests. He said the officers involved had been reassigned to support duties and would have no contact with the public pending the outcome of the investigation.

Taylor said officials were looking at whether the officers' conduct was "reasonable," and that the actions he saw on the video were worrisome.

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