While the rights of individuals and groups to peacefully assemble and engage in lawful protest should be upheld, these gatherings can also end in violence. Whether this descent into violence and looting is instigated by provocateurs, by criminals taking advantage of an explosive situation, or by the protesters themselves is irrelevant.
Public safety should be the paramount concern when violence erupts, yet innocent bystanders are often attacked and injured by mobs while law enforcement officers are forced under order to stand down. If an individual is injured or killed during a protest-fueled riot, who is responsible for compensating the victims?
How can victims of riot violence be compensated?
A personal injury attorney or wrongful death attorney will demand that the local government pay compensation for injuries or death suffered at the hands of rioters. Local governments are resonsible for public safety, and direct the actions of law enfoecement when these incidents occur. They are also responsible for asking for additional help from the National Guard or other state agencies if needed.
Local municipalities can be sued for compensation if the following criteria are met:
Foreknowledge of impending civil unrest
If a well publicized and incendiary event, such as a court trial or a funeral, is scheduled, local authorities must be adequately prepared to control civil unrest. This may include adding additional law enforcement or requesting additional help from state National Guard members if needed.
Inaction or inappropriate decisions when violence occurs
Civil courts don't require a proof of guilt, but rather a preponderance of evidence that multiple choices were available, and that the choices chosen by authorities failed to protect the victim from injury or death.
This may involve actions such as choosing to contain unrest to a limited area rather than engage violent perpetrators. It also may include the choices of law enforcement and the equipment that is used or displayed. Use of military style equipment may be shown to induce violence, while lack of specialized equipment for crowd control may also be presented as a factor that allowed an incident to spiral out of control.
Civil rights are guaranteed for all Americans, including the right to protest. However, when protests and civil disobedience open the door to violence and destruction, the rights of innocent civilians must be protected as well.
Fortunately, personal injury and wrongful death attorneys, such as Master Weinstein Shatz Moyer, P.C., can assist victims of improper actions by law enforcement to receive fair compensation. This includes those injured or killed while being arrested or detained, as well as victims of the unrest that results from these events.