Officials in Kenosha, Wisconsin, enforced their curfew selectively, targeting demonstrators protesting police brutality while allowing “militia members” and supporters of law enforcement to roam the street, a federal lawsuit alleges.
The curfew ended Wednesday, the mayor announced.
The civil rights lawsuit filed Tuesday comes after protesters took to Kenosha’s streets decrying the police shooting of Jacob Blake earlier this month. A lawyer for Kenosha County and the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department called the lawsuit “entirely without merit.”
“The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department has worked tirelessly to bring order back to the community and has been careful to protect the rights of all citizens throughout that process,” attorney Sam Hall said, explaining he would seek immediate dismissal.
The four protesters named in the suit allege their constitutional rights, including their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble, were violated when they were arrested in Kenosha.
Over nine days, more than 150 peaceful protesters were arrested for violating curfew, but not a single pro-police demonstrator was arrested, the lawsuit alleges. It also claims that starting the curfew so early in the evening, at 7 p.m., “leaves no room for any free expression.”
The plaintiffs demand a temporary restraining order against the city and Kenosha County and monetary damages. They also want the curfew ruled unconstitutional, according to the complaint.
City and county police “have used the curfew ordinance to silence the voices of those who peacefully demonstrate against police brutality while also allowing pro-police activists and militias to roam the streets without fear of arrest,” plaintiffs’ attorney Kim Motley said.
Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said earlier this week he would relax the curfew Wednesday. Instead, without mentioning the lawsuit, he announced Wednesday that after consulting with law enforcement, he determined the curfew was no longer necessary as protests over the last several nights “have been relatively peaceful.”
Two videos are mentioned in the complaint. In one, police are seen thanking “militia members,” telling them, “Hey, thank you guys again” and “We appreciate you guys; we really do,” according to the complaint.
The police and sheriff’s deputies “can be heard providing support and supplies to the militia members while simultaneously enforcing the curfew against protesters,” the complaint says.
“The video makes clear that there are two sets of laws – one for those whose message the police support, and one for those whose message the police oppose,” it says.
Many of the pro-police protesters carry weapons, “typified by Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who murdered two peaceful demonstrators this week,” according to the lawsuit.
The Antioch, Illinois, teenager faces two felony homicide charges, as well as a felony attempted homicide charge for wounding a third protester. Attorneys representing Rittenhouse say he opened fire in self-defense.
Neither the city nor the Kenosha Police Department immediately returned CNN’s calls seeking comment.
CNN’s Brad Parks contributed to this report.