Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Casa Grande officer cleared in Gay-rights protest

CASA GRANDE (Observer Update) - The Associated Press reporting on that a Casa Grande police officer who ended a gay-rights demonstration has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

The department’s police chief says officers will be better trained in the future in handling demonstrations and First Amendment rights.

Police Chief Robert Huddleston said he didn’t think the officer engaged in misconduct, but the call could have been handled differently.

“I think that as a department if we fell short, we didn’t go in with a primary objective of protecting their right to demonstrate,” Huddleston said.

In addition to First Amendment training, the department is requiring supervisors be notified when officers respond to protests.

Christopher Hall, 19, a student at Central Arizona College and president and founder of Central Arizona Rainbow Equality, said he was disappointed with the internal investigation’s findings.

“It means we have a lot more work ahead of us,” he said.

Casa Grande Police Officer Brian Walsh was accused of threatening gay-rights demonstrators with arrest for flying a pride flag inside city limits on April 15.
Walsh’s notes on the incident showed the group was “made to leave (and) warned to not obstruct the view of traffic by flying their flag.”

Less than a week later, Hall filed a complaint with the department, alleging his group’s right to assemble was violated and that Walsh discriminated against some of them.

“Straight supporters were not questioned nor harassed, but members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community were,” Hall wrote.

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