TUCSON (CN) - The ACLU claims the Tucson Police Department racially profiled two construction workers in an incident that caused a small riot in the streets here late last year.
Daniel Pochoda, legal director of ACLU Arizona, sent a Notice of Claim on Friday to Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor and three of his officers, threatening to sue for damages over the alleged "protracted detention" of Agustin Reyes and Arturo Robles. Pochoda said the men would settle for $250,000 each.
Reyes and Robles were on their way to a job installing floors on Oct. 8, 2013, when TPD officers stopped them for a broken license plate bulb.
Pochoda wrote that Officer Fabian Valdez asked the men where they were from after requesting the vehicle records. Neither man had an identification card, and Valdez "accused both men of being from Mexico," according to the Notice of Claim.
Officer David Fritsch ordered Reyes and Robles to get out of van and to sit on the curb on busy Speedway Boulevard, and about 30 minutes later the Border Patrol took both men into custody.
But by the time the Border Patrol tried to leave with the two men, a group of people from Southside Presbyterian Church had gathered for an impromptu protest. The Arizona Daily Star reported at the time that about 100 people gathered to protest the detention, and that police used pepper spray to disperse them.
Reyes eventually received a citation for a broken license plate and driving without a license.
"Such violations would have normally resulted in a cite-in-lieu of detention," Pochoda wrote.
He added that the incident shows the so-called "show me your papers" provision of Arizona's controversial immigration law, SB1070, does not work. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to enjoin the provision in 2012, finding that it was not yet clear how it would be used.
"Monitoring of law enforcement's implementation of the 'show me your papers' provision has shown that - just as the ACLU and other civil rights groups have argued - the law unconstitutionally authorizes and encourages illegal police practices," Pochoda wrote.
The ACLU filed a similar Notice of Claim last year against the South Tucson Police Department.
Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson was one of the first congregations to declare its grounds a sanctuary for refugees of the Central American wars in the 1980s, setting off what became known as the sanctuary movement.