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ACLU Receives Documents Regarding Recent Treatment Of BLM Protesters In Martinsburg

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The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia received documents from the City of Martinsburg Friday afternoon — all related to treatment of Black Lives Matter protesters in late May

The ACLU-WV filed a freedom of information act request more than a month ago, and having not received the documents within the legally mandated time frame, filed a lawsuit earlier Friday. The documents arrived thereafter. 

The ACLU-WV filed a lawsuit against the city of Martinsburg in Berkeley County Circuit Court because city officials had notresponded to a public records request submitted more than 50 days ago, according to an ACLU spokesperson. 

Within about an hour of filing the lawsuit, the City agreed to provide the requested documents. The ACLU-WV said they received documents late Friday afternoon related to police treatment of 11 protesters. 

The organization required such records as bodycam and dashcam footage from Martinsburg Police officers involved in the arrest of 11 Black Lives Matter protesters on May 30 and 31. The request asks for names and badge numbers, official procedures when interacting with protesters, and use-of-force policies. 

The request was submitted by the ACLU-WV on behalf of the Berkeley County Unity Coalition, a newly formed group of civil and human rights organizations, educators and faith leaders. 

The group said the 11 arrested protesters were forced to sit in jail with excessively high bails amid a health pandemic, and that officers used excessive force and escalated tensions.  

The ACLU-WV said they aren’t prepared to dismiss their lawsuit until the documents are reviewed.   

The Martinsburg Police Department did not immediately respond for comment.

In an emailed statement from Kin Sayre, Martinsburg's city attorney, he states the City of Martinsburg replied to the ACLU-WV’s FOIA on Jun. 23, 2020 acknowledging the request and indicating “the City would need time to assemble the data.” 

Sayre also noted “the City has not been served on the lawsuit.”

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