DES MOINES, Iowa — The City of Des Moines on Monday voted to pay legal fees for two Des police officers who are involved in a counterclaim with council member Indira Sheumaker.
Peter Wilson and Jeffrey George filled lawsuits against Sheumaker and five other people who attended a Black Lives Matter protest back in July 2020.
Wilson and George claim while attending the protest, Sheumaker put one of the officers in a chokehold while other protesters attempted to resist her arrest.
Sheumaker is counter-suing, saying the two officers used excessive force and violated her civil rights.
This countersuit is expected to cost taxpayers $250 per hour to represent Wilson and George. Representatives with the city say they are just following protocol.
According to Iowa code section 67.08, the city is required to offer legal help to the officers since incident listed in the countersuit took place during official government work.
Organizer for People's Town Hall, Adam Callanan, believes the original lawsuit filed by Wilson and George is scary.
"I just think it's a really scary attack on the First Amendment to have police officers and other city joined in suing against people for protests that happened two years ago," Callanan said, "If you interact with a police officer, that police officer might sue you civilly for something that happens. It's just a really confusing and scary area of the law."
All but council member Sheumaker voted to the $250 an hour fee for a third-party legal representative.
Callanan believes these decisions will discourage Des Moines residents from using their voice.
"I think it'll definitely have an effect on people's decision of whether or not to protest and how safe they feel protesting in the city."