US Justice Department opens civil rights lawsuit against Ferguson | News | DW | 11.02.2016
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US Justice Department opens civil rights lawsuit against Ferguson

A federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed against Ferguson after the city council voted to revise an agreement to improve civil rights. An investigation into the city found widespread civil rights violations.

The lawsuit comes a day after Ferguson's city council voted to add seven amendments to an agreement reached between the city and the US Justice Department meant to improve civil rights.

A federal investigation into the city last year found widespread civil rights abuses and violations of the US Constitution, including widespread discrimination against African Americans.

Among the findings was that the city's municipal court system and police violated residents' rights in a profit-driven system to create revenue for the city. That practice was to be rectified under the agreement with the federal government.

"The residents of Ferguson have waited nearly a year for the city to adopt an agreement that would protect their rights and keep them safe," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said. "They have waited decades for justice. They should not be forced to wait any longer."

Police officers in Ferguson "routinely" pulled over motorists without reasonable suspicion, carried out arrests without probable cause, and used "unreasonable force," Lynch said.

"They made enforcement decisions based on the way individuals expressed themselves and unnecessarily escalated non-threatening situations," she added.

Ferguson was the flashpoint of a nationwide backlash against police brutality and civil rights abuses against African Americans after a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old, in August 2014. A grand jury did not prosecute the police officer, Darren Wilson.

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Brown's death and similar incidents involving police violence against African Americans have led to calls for nationwide reforms of police departments and investigations into abuses.

Ferguson apparently balked at implementing the deal with the federal government after a financial analysis revealed the city would suffer revenue loss, and it would cost nearly $4 million (3.6 million euros) to implement the agreement in the first year alone. The city's mayor said the costs could lead to the dissolution of the city.

cw/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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