WASHINGTON — Video can move our nation. From the murder of George Floyd in 2020 to Rodney King in 1991, pictures taken by citizens can have a huge impact.
On Thursday, a D.C. resident sued a city worker who allegedly attacked her for trying to shoot video of the city clearing an encampment where unhoused residents were living.
The incident, which happened Dec. 2, 2021, lasted just seconds. The video shows a man, Keyen Blakely, demanding Kimberly Lehmkuhl move, her loudly telling him to back off and then he knocks her off her feet.
"Mr. Blakely came right on my side and just shoved me back on the ground. On the video, you can see my toes flip up in the air," said Lehmkuhl.
Blakely is an employee in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services.
A year-and-a-half later, Lehmkuhl, a longtime advocate for those experiencing homelessness, said she's still trying to collect herself. She says she was documenting the clearing of the homeless encampment at New Jersey and O St NW, trying to make sure city officials didn't throw away the vital records of the people living in tents, from IDs to social security cards and birth certificates.
She alleges Blakely attacked her.
"This case is very simple," said her lawyer, Charlie Gerstein. "A state official is not allowed to assault a member of the public when she's filming public business."
The lawsuit filed by Gerstein alleges Blakely violated Lehmkuhl's 1st, 4th, and 5th Amendment constitutional rights. Lehmkuhl said she was in a public park when she was allegedly assaulted.
"We were never asked to physically leave, by the police or otherwise," she said.
Lehmkhul says Blakely asked her to back up, not leave the park.
"As far as I can tell, he has not been disciplined," Gerstein saic about Blakely.
Lehmkuhl is asking for compensatory and punitive damages, as well as legal fees.
Blakely, who picked up a call on his mobile phone, declined to comment, as did the D.C. attorney general's office. At the time of publication. Mayor Muriel Bowser had not responded to requests for comment.