It was decided on Monday by the D.C. government that they will pay a $1.6 million settlement in two lawsuits that alleged police unlawfully detained over 200 protesters and other constitutional violations during former President Trump’s January 2017 inauguration.
The said lawsuits were brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia and attorney Jefferey Light, on behalf of protesters.
The ACLU said in a statement about the settlement Monday that the lawsuit alleged that then-Police Chief Peter Newsham and more than 20 officers “engaged in or supervised constitutional violations including mass arrests of demonstrators without probable cause, unlawful conditions of confinement for detainees, and/or use of excessive force.”
The ACLU said that even though just a few protesters caused damage and engaged in violence, police rounded up more than 200 protestors and “detained them without access to food, water, or restrooms for up to 16 hours.”
The suits accuse Metropolitan Police Department officers and then-Police Chief Peter Newsham of being responsible for the “mass arrests of demonstrators without probable cause, unlawful conditions of confinement for detainees, and/or use of excessive force,” per a statement from the ACLU.
- The civil cases, brought by the ACLU and attorney Jefferey Light on behalf of protesters, alleging that police violated the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments, as well as D.C. law.
- They accuse police of rounding up and detaining 200-plus protesters “without access to food, water, or restrooms for up to 16 hours,” despite only a small number of demonstrators causing damage during the protests.
“Officers also deployed pepper spray, flash-bang grenades, concussion grenades, and sting balls — explosive devices that release smoke, rubber pellets, and a chemical irritant within a radius of approximately 50 feet—against protesters and others both on the street … without warning and in circumstances where there was no threat of harm to officers or the public.” — Excerpt from ACLU’s statement
Protests over Trump’s inauguration happened across the country, and in Washington, demonstrators clashed with police, damaged property, and even set a limousine on fire. Newsham acknowledged at the time that “a very, very small percentage” of the protesters were violent or destructive.
The conduct of Metropolitan Police Department officers was investigated by the city’s Police Complaints Board.
According to the report issued to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in February 2017, the board concluded that “while in many instances MPD conducted activities constitutionally, there are several instances where the observations made by [the Office of Police Complaints] cause concern and raise questions.”
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