State refuses to share lab results of what is likely apple cider vinegar  that protesters use to protect themselves

ST. LOUIS – ACLU of Missouri has filed a lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Health for not releasing lab results about “unknown chemicals” labeled as “apple cider vinegar” confiscated by the St. Louis County Police Department during September protests in downtown St. Louis.

Despite not being a law enforcement agency or having the power or ability to make arrests, the Missouri Department of Health claims it cannot release the lab results because they’re part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

“State departments often respond to open records requests by claiming their hands are tied,” ACLU of Missouri Legal Director Tony Rothert said. “But the refusal of state agencies to follow the law when it comes to open records is deliberate.”

The St. Louis County Police Department sent the department of health the “unknown chemicals” in a bottle labeled “apple cider vinegar” after they confiscated it from people on September 17. On Oct. 5, the St. Louis County Police Department tweeted, “After a false-positive test in the field, lab results indicate, it's most likely apple cider vinegar.”

However, the Missouri Department of Health refuses to release the official lab results.

On Nov. 16, the ACLU sent a written request to the department of health’s custodian of records seeking copies of any lab test results relating to “any liquid alleged to have been thrown at police during protests.” The state responded with its decision not to release the records on Nov. 21.

On Sept. 17, police officers deployed chemical agents against protestors and bystanders. It is not uncommon to see apple cider vinegar at a protest, where it is used to lessen the pain of tear gas.  

“The Sunshine Law exists to ensure government transparency and trust,” ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman said. “The state must stop its ongoing culture of secrecy and hold itself accountable to the people it serves.”

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