ACLU sues District po­lice for ex­ces­sive force, false ar­rests.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY SARAH NELSON

The District’s ACLU branch an­nounced Wed­nes­day that it has filed a law­suit against the Metropoli­tan Po­lice De­part­ment, al­leg­ing that of­fi­cers used ex­ces­sive force and il­le­gally ar­rested peace­ful pro­test­ers on In­au­gu­ra­tion Day.

Filed in fed­eral court, the civil rights law­suit also ac­cuses of­fi­cers of deny­ing de­tainees ac­cess to toi­lets, food and water. The suit was filed on be­half of four peo­ple who were ar­rested, in­clud­ing a pho­to­jour­nal­ist and a le­gal ob­server.

A small num­ber of demon­stra­tors van­dal­ized busi­nesses and de­stroyed prop­erty on Jan. 20, but po­lice of­fi­cers man­han­dled, pep­per-sprayed and rounded up peace­ful pro­test­ers with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tion or or­ders to dis­perse, the civil rights group said.

“We saw the po­lice use the ac­tions of a few as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to pun­ish a great many law-abid­ing demon­stra­tors,” said Scott Michel­man, se­nior staff at­tor­ney for the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of the District of Columbia.

Claim­ing vi­o­la­tions of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amend­ments of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, the law­suit states that the po­lice de­part­ment also vi­o­lated the District’s First Amend­ment As­sem­blies Act, which re­quires po­lice to have prob­a­ble cause that pro­test­ers com­mit­ted un­law­ful acts in or­der to “sub­stan­tially en­cir­cle” them.

The law­suit seeks mone­tary com­pen­sa­tion in an amount to be de­ter­mined by a jury, Mr. Michel­man said.

The Metropoli­tan Po­lice De­part­ment re­leased a state­ment via Twit­ter, say­ing that its of­fi­cers pro­tect thou­sands of pro­test­ers each year. On In­au­gu­ra­tion Day, at least six of­fi­cers were in­jured when some demon­stra­tors com­mit­ted crimes. Those per­sons “were ul­ti­mately ar­rested,” the state­ment reads.

“As with any pend­ing crim­i­nal or civil mat­ter, we will con­tinue to sup­port and re­spect the for­mal le­gal process,” it states. “More­over, all in­stances of use of force by of­fi­cers and al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct will be fully in­ves­ti­gated.”

The D.C. at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice, which usu­ally does not com­ment on pend­ing cases, of­fered no com­ment on the law­suit.

One of the law­suit’s plain­tiffs, Shay Horse, is a New York res­i­dent and pho­to­jour­nal­ist who cov­ers protests across the coun­try and around the world.

Mr. Horse said that as he pho­tographed pro­test­ers near Franklin Square, an of­fi­cer pep­per-sprayed him from be­hind, even though his cam­era iden­ti­fied him as a jour­nal­ist and he was not protest­ing.

The po­lice then “ket­tled,” or cor­ralled, more than 200 peo­ple, in­clud­ing Mr. Horse, onto 12th and L streets NW. Af­ter sun­set, the po­lice be­gan to make ar­rests and hand­cuffed Mr. Horse with zip­ties so tight, his fin­gers be­came numb, he said.

At a nearby fa­cil­ity, po­lice or­dered that male de­tainees re­move their pants to un­dergo man­ual rec­tal prob­ing.

“I felt like they were us­ing mo­lesta­tion and rape as pun­ish­ment. They used those tac­tics to in­flict pain and mis­ery on peo­ple who were sup­posed to be in­no­cent un­til proven guilty,” said Mr. Horse, adding that he was re­leased 33 hours later.

He said the fin­gers on his left hand are still numb, and he now suf­fers from stress and anx­i­ety.

An­other plain­tiff, Ju­dah Ariel, said he had on a neon-green hat la­beled “National Lawyers Guild” to iden­tify him­self as a le­gal ob­server. While he mon­i­tored pro­test­ers, of­fi­cers be­gan “dous­ing” the crowd with pep­per spray with­out warn­ing, he said.

“I felt like I was suf­fo­cat­ing,” Mr. Ariel said. “This is the city where I’ve cho­sen to make my home and raise a fam­ily, and all of a sud­den, it felt like my po­lice de­part­ment [and] my gov­ern­ment had turned on me with­out warn­ing and with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tion.”

The ACLU com­mended D.C. po­lice for their history of han­dling peace­ful demon­stra­tions but lamented the de­part­ment’s “mas­sive, ex­ces­sive, un­jus­ti­fied and un­con­sti­tu­tional” re­sponse.

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