The nation’s capital reached a settlement over allegations that city police officers unlawfully arrested and detained more than 200 people protesting or observing protests of former President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.
The Washington, D.C., government will pay a combined $1.6 million to settle the two lawsuits over the mass arrests, according to court documents filed Monday which alleged that D.C. police violated the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights of plaintiffs, citing the use of pepper spray, flash-bang grenades, concussion grenades, and stingballs.
The lawsuits also alleged many plaintiffs were arrested without probable cause and that they were detained for 16 hours without access to food, water, or restrooms.
“MPD’s unconstitutional guilt-by-association policing and excessive force, including the use of chemical weapons, not only injured our clients physically but also chilled their speech and the speech of countless others who wished to exercise their First Amendment rights but feared an unwarranted assault by D.C. police,” Scott Michelman, legal director for ACLU of the District of Columbia, said in a press release. ACLU of DC represented a mother and her son who were detained, as well as demonstrators Elizabeth Lagesse and Milo Gonzalez, photojournalist Shay Horse, and legal observer Judah Ariel.
“The contrast between the over-policing of constitutionally protected speech on Inauguration Day 2017 and the under-policing of a violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol earlier this year starkly demonstrates law enforcement’s institutional biases,” Michelman continued.
Attorney Jeffrey Light, who represented more than 100 demonstrators in the other suit, said in a statement, “It speaks volumes that the District has chosen to settle rather than defend MPD’s obviously unconstitutional actions in court,” continuing “Today’s settlements provide some measure of compensation for all the people who were unconstitutionally arrested and confined for exercising their rights on Inauguration Day four years ago.”
Former D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham, who was named in the suit, defended the police department’s arrests of protesters.
“The folks that were arrested were operating as a unit,” Newsham told the Washington Post, reportedly detailing allegations that some of them exchanged clothes in an effort to evade detection and that they caused more than $100,000 in damage. “By all accounts, it was a coordinated effort to come to Washington, D.C., and to destroy property,” he added.
The court filing detailing the agreement lays out a series of terms for the city to meet with regard to the settlement, including one committing the D.C. attorney general’s office to not oppose motions to expunge arrest records of the plaintiffs in both suits.
The city also agreed to policy changes, including one committing to giving each mass-arrestee an identification number on a wristband and another directing three officers to be present when detaining an individual.
The Washington Examiner reached out to the D.C. attorney general’s office for comment on the settlement but did not immediately receive a response.
Author : Jeremy Beaman
Source : Washington Examiner : DC agrees to $1.6M settlement in lawsuits over mass arrests of Trump inauguration protesters