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Man Sues Seattle Over May Day Protest Injuries

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on August 26, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Seattle has become known for its anti-capitalist protests over the last decade, and many were predicting that the 2016 May Day protests could turn ugly. Organizers even warned participants on Facebook to "be prepared for violent police repression (pepper spray, flash bang grenades, tear gas, beatings, arrests, etc.)." They were right about the flash bang grenades -- one exploded near a man filming the protest, sending shrapnel through his face and opening up a gash on his cheek.

Now the man is suing the City of Seattle and members of the Seattle Police Department over his injuries. Here's a look at the case.

Having a Blast Ball

According to Sam Levine, he was shooting video of the May Day protests for his blog, when what's known as a "blast ball" exploded next to him:

"I looked down and I didn't even have time to process it. I just saw it and then it went off. I was blinded. I went down. I couldn't feel the left half of my face," Levine said. "I did not expect that I would be lying on the ground from a grenade in my own pool of blood. And that's hard to deal with."

Video that Levine posted on Twitter seems to confirm that account. In it you can see a projectile come Levine's way, begin to spark, and explode right next to him, and then you can hear loud calls for a medic:

Levine also posted post-surgery photos after an inch of rubber was removed from his cheek.

Protest Liability

While it seems clear that Levine was injured by police action, suing the police is a complicated matter. Most officers are granted qualified immunity from civil lawsuits for performing official duties, and in most cases you must prove their conduct intentionally violated your rights and they were not acting in good faith.

And there are also procedural rules when you've been injured by police: in most jurisdictions you must file an injury claim with the government entity first, before you can file a lawsuit in court. Even with these legal hurdles, some claims against the police for protest injuries have been successful. For example, an Iraq vet whose skull was fractured by a beanbag round fired by police during Occupy protests in Oakland in 2014 received $4.5 million in a settlement with the city.

If you've been injured by police, whether during protests, an arrest, or otherwise, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney today. Most are willing to provide a free consultation regarding your case.

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