LAS VEGAS— The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada filed a lawsuit against the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the Rio hotel on Monday. No Nevadan should have their civil rights violated just for attending a birthday party, yet that is exactly what happened to the plaintiffs in this case.
On August 19, 2018, our plaintiffs and many others booked a suite at the Rio Hotel and gathered to celebrate a birthday party. Each of the 34 people in attendance that evening is Black.
The hotel knew there would be a party that night, and staff discussed the hotel’s noise policies with the ACLU of Nevada’s clients. Yet after 2 a.m., police officers, escorted by hotel staff, stormed into the suite. Each of the 34 guests was searched, handcuffed, and forced to sit in the hallway for up to 6 hours without access to water, food, or restroom facilities.
Officers administered pat-downs and record checks indiscriminately without any reasonable suspicion that any one individual had engaged, or would have engaged, in criminal activity.
No person at the birthday celebration was arrested for criminal gang activity, yet Las Vegas police broadcast to the public on social media that it had “broke up a large gang party” where “over a dozen documented gang members were arrested.” Because the department released photographs of several partygoers to the news media, several ACLUNV clients’ friends, family, and employers saw reports that they were arrested at a “gang party.”
ACLU of Nevada Staff Attorney Nikki Levy said:
"Las Vegas police and the Rio violated our clients’ rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. We filed this case to confront police policies that allow officers to conduct these kinds of indiscriminate and pretextual searches, and we want to make it clear that it is unacceptable to label an entire gathering as a ‘gang party’ just because the party guests are Black.”
Ashley Medlock, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said:
“The Rio knew we were having a birthday party when the room was booked, but instead of having a good time we were treated like criminals and harassed by the police and the hotel. Since when is it a crime to be Black and go to a birthday?”