Des Moines Police Sued For Use of Pepper Spray on Protesters

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Des Moines, Iowa — A Des Moines woman is suing the city of Des Moines and its police force after she was shot with pepper spray while protesting downtown last month.

According to the lawsuit filed on Wednesday, Essence Welch says she was protesting near 6th and Cherry on May 30th when she was sprayed. Welch claimed she was standing aside from a large group of protesters, not violating any laws, when an unnamed Des Moines police officer walked “several yards” towards her and sprayed her in the face with pepper spray. Welch says she suffered burns to her eyes, face and body from the chemical spray.

Hundreds of protesters filled the streets of Des Moines late into the night for a week following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a former Minnesota police officer. Des Moines police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse large crowds of protesters and smaller groups of vandals as protests spread into the early morning hours. One Des Moines Register reporter was arrested, another was pepper sprayed despite both identifying themselves as journalists.

Welch is asking for unspecified damages for the alleged deprivation of her human rights and as well “humiliation, degradation, public ridicule, loss of personal reputation and emotional distress.” The lawsuit names “Officer John Doe”, Police Chief Dana Wingert and the City of Des Moines as defendants.

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