A man who says he was an American Civil Liberties Union legal observer at a protest that shut down Interstate 70 this week is suing St. Louis County, claiming he was wrongly arrested and detained for 18 hours without charges.
Mustafa Abdullah's federal lawsuit, filed Wednesday in St. Louis, alleges the 28-year-old St. Louis man did not take part in the protest during Monday's afternoon rush hour but was arrested on suspicion of interfering with duties of a police officer. As of Friday, he had not been charged.
That demonstration, which involved more than 60 arrests and halted traffic in both directions of the freeway near a Missouri River bridge, came a day after the one-year anniversary of the Ferguson police shooting death of Michael Brown, a case that launched the national "Black Lives Matter" movement.
A message seeking comment was left Friday with St. Louis County's counselor, Peter Krane.
Abdullah alleges he was wearing a green cap labeled "National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer" at Monday's freeway demonstration and was among about 10 legal observers. He insists he did not break any law or ordinance when he was arrested in a nearby church's parking lot as he was returning to his car to comply with police commands that gatherers disperse.
Abdullah said officers refused to explain why he was being arrested and that his car was towed, costing him $230.
His lawsuit claims that most of the legal observers, along with volunteers who were to provide medical care if needed, were taken into custody although none of them took part in the protest.
Last year, a St. Louis federal judge sided with Abdullah and other plaintiffs in an ACLU-backed lawsuit that sought to stop law enforcement agencies from enforcing a requirement that Ferguson protesters of Brown's death keep moving rather than stand still.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry ruled that that tactic unconstitutionally breached free-speech rights, although she cautioned that police still could enforce the state's failure-to-disperse law and other statutes to control crowds and protect people and property.