Family Claims Police Hate Crime After Obama Celebration

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A lawsuit filed Thursday alleges that while a huge Chicago crowd celebrated the election of the first black U.S. president, some white city police officers committed hate crimes against a black family cheering Barack Obama‘s victory from home.

The federal lawsuit claims several officers discharged pepper spray on members of a family celebrating Obama’s win outside their home on the city’s West Side last week.

After some of the family members fled into the home, the armed officers knocked down the door and shouted profanity- laced racial insults before leaving, according to the suit.

The eight plaintiffs include Niger Arnold, 31, of Chicago, and her four children, who had been visiting relatives at the home.

“Chicago looked very good on national TV that night. For many people, it was the beginning of a new era in America,” attorney Gregory Kulis said. “Obviously, some Chicago police thought otherwise.”

The lawsuit, which seeks at least $50,000 in damages, claims use of excessive force, unlawful search and seizure, battery, and a hate crime. It cites only the unnamed officers and does not name the Chicago Police Department.

A separate lawsuit filed last week by Kulis claims Christina Ballard and Cornelius Voss, who are black, were driving home in Chicago with family members on election night when white officers in unmarked cars drove alongside the vehicle.

That lawsuit alleges that after some of the children cheered for Obama through the open car windows, the officers discharged pepper spray and yelled “white power” and the N-word.

Kulis said the family was able to get a partial license plate number from the unmarked cars, which were traced back to the city.

Independent Police Review Authority spokeswoman Ilana Rosenzweig said Thursday that the agency is investigating both allegations. She said the agency has received “multiple allegations” of election night misconduct by Chicago police officers but declined to give further details.

Chicago police spokeswoman Monique Bond also said that the allegations will be investigated and that the department

“does not condone or tolerate hate crimes on any level.”

“Police officers did an outstanding job protecting the city and maintaining order and peace during the Election Day and evening activities,” she said Thursday.

More than 100,000 people celebrated in downtown Chicago’s Grant Park on Nov. 4. All Chicago police were required to work. No major incidents were immediately reported, and officers cleared the park of rally-goers less than an hour after it ended.

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