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Update to lawsuit against City of Wauwatosa for 'unlawful arrests' following Alvin Cole, Jacob Blake shootings

The lawsuit claims the city arrested and targeted people who engaged in 'peaceful protests'
Wauwatosa protests
Posted at 6:46 AM, Aug 26, 2022

WAUWATOSA — A new decision has been filed in the case against the City of Wauwatosa and its mayor allowing parts of the lawsuit to go forward. The lawsuit was originally filed in connection to 2020 protests following the shooting of Jacob Blake, and the deaths of Alvin Cole and George Floyd.

U.S. Magistrate Judge, Nancy Joseph, wrote in the decision that several of the claims would be dismissed, while others would be allowed to go forward. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the curfew put in place during protests in 2020. It also questions an alleged "protester target list" created by Wauwatosa Police and other discriminatory practices.

Plaintiffs allege that they were ticketed, arrested, and targeted by city officials because they were present, or even engaged in peaceful protests following the deaths of George Floyd and Alvin Cole, and the shooting of Jacob Blake.

The lawsuit accuses Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride of declaring a curfew and Emergency Order for the city without the Wauwatosa Common Council's knowledge or approval. They also say he did not have the authority to do so.

"I find that these allegations sufficiently claim that the City had an express policy that causes a constitutional deprivation when enforced," the decision states.

Plaintiffs claim that the order gave rise to the Waukesha Police Department and other agencies responding to protests with "unconstitutional tactics that were clearly intended to injure, silence, and intimidate the plaintiffs as well as all citizens." Part of this claim is an alleged violation of the Drivers Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), which should prevent law enforcement from sharing personal information obtained through motor vehicle records. The lawsuit alleges Dominick Ratkowski and Joseph Roy created a 'Protester Target List' and shared it with other law enforcement entities outside the scope of WPD's work.

The I-Team covered the story about the "protester target list" in July of 2021. The lawsuit alleges, "Ratkowski and Ray took 'personal information,' as defined by the DPPA, in the form of driver's license photos, addresses, telephone numbers, and dates of births, compiled a list, and then disseminated the information to hundreds of people, including WPD officers, Wauwatosa elected officials, employees, and various other third parties outside of the WPD."

U.S. Magistrate Judge, Nancy Joseph, wrote in her order, "It is entirely unclear how dissemination of this information served a role in some legitimate law enforcement function, such as deterring, preventing or investigating crimes. Thus, at this juncture, I find the plaintiffs sufficiently state claims under the DPPA."

The tactics mentioned in the lawsuit include violently beating protesters, engaging in false arrests, the creation of false arrest records, use of chemical agents, and kettling protesters in enclosed areas.

According to the lawsuit, the city's attempt to dismiss the cases did not include a claim explaining how those arrested could find relief.

The plaintiffs are now asking that a portion of the city's motion to dismiss be granted, with other portions of it dismissed with prejudice. They are asking for relief from Wauwatosa and McBride, as well as several Waukesha police officers.

Judge Joseph, dismissed counts three, four, five, six, eight, nine, 10, 12 and 13. However, she will allow several other counts to proceed; including the first claim of relief as to the City of Wauwatosa and the first claim of relief as to Mayor Dennis McBride, in his individual capacity for money damages. The second and 14th claims for relief as to Dominick Ratkowski and Joseph Roy and the 11th and 13th claims against Jeffrey Farina will also go forward.

You can read the entire decision below.

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