Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

When Sotomayor Ruled In Favor of Anti-Abortion Protesters

In Amnesty America v. Town of West Hartford, anti-abortion protestors argued that the police had used excessive force against them.
A lower court had ruled that the police had not used excessive force. She ruled that “a reasonable jury could find that the officers gratuitously inflicted pain in a manner that was not a reasonable response to the circumstances.”
In the factual summary part of her decision, Sotomayor wrote:

“It is undisputed that the police were forced to employ some degree of physical coercion in order to arrest the protesters and remove them from the premises. Plaintiffs allege, however, that the police responded with far more force than was necessary, and inflicted severe pain on the demonstrators by dragging them out of the building by their elbows, using choke holds, and lifting them off the floor by their wrists. Moreover, one
officer allegedly shoved and pinned a sitting protester’s head to the floor with his foot, and some threatened those who were praying aloud that they would “get more” if they “kept crying out in praise of the Lord.” The protesters who were subjected to this treatment “screamed” in pain, and the demonstrators assert that they could hear the continuous screams and protestations of their fellow arrestees.”

Though the case dealt with criminal procedures and questions of municipal liability, not the merits of abortion, it’s interesting that she sided with the position of the anti-abortion groups.

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