D.C. settles lawsuits over Trump inauguration protest arrests
The D.C. government agreed Monday to 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.
Driving the news: 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, allege 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 stingballs — 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
Of note: The city's Police Complaints Board stated in a February 2017 report to Mayor Muriel Bowser on the conduct of police on Trump's Inauguration Day that "while in many instances MPD conducted activities in a constitutional manner, there are several instances where the observations made by [the Office of Police Complaints] cause concern and raise questions."
- The only convictions that eventuated from the 234 Inauguration Day arrests were for 21 people who pleaded guilty before trial, the Washington Post reports.
The other side: When asked at a news conference to comment on the settlement, Bowser said: "We settled the matter."
- Representatives for Bowser and the MPD did not immediately respond to Axios' requests for comment.