After D.C Police made 217 arrests on Inauguration Day, charging all of them with rioting, lawyers for protesters have filed a lawsuit over alleged false arrests and excessive force.
There were clashes throughout Inauguration Day between riot police and protesters, a minority of whom engaged in activities like smashing windows and setting fires.
The lawsuit stems from arrests that occurred at 12th and L Street NW, where officers “kettled” a group of protesters, a crowd control tactic in which officers surround people and prevent or curtail their exit around 10:30 a.m.
This happened shortly after police had “preliminary information” that these were the members of a “group acting in a concerted effort engaged in acts of vandalism and several instances of destruction of property,” according to an MPD statement, and that it responded swiftly to contain the violence (sic). [Editor’s note: The only “violence” observed came from police.]
The lawsuit alleges that police then “indiscriminately and repeatedly” used chemical irritants, batons, and flash-bang grenades against the people inside the kettle, which included “members of the media, attorneys, legal observers, and medics,” as well as protesters who did not destroy any private property.
“All we deployed was pepper spray and sting balls,” says MPD spokesperson Sean Hickman. MPD has denied using flash-bang grenades against protesters, a claim countered by eyewitnesses on the scene and multiple media reports.
Interim D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said in a news conference yesterday that he was very, very pleased” by his officers’ response. Mayor Muriel Bowser also issued her support for the law enforcement officers who “have handled crowds and this event.”
Arraignments for protesters charged with rioting will begin at 1 p.m. today at D.C. Superior Court. A band arrived outside the court where crowds were gathering.
DisruptJ20, the volunteer-run group that planned many of yesterday’s demonstrations, wrote on a group cell phone messaging system that the “cops have taken some of our comrades’ clothing as ‘evidence'” and put out a call for people to bring new duds to the arrestees.
Sometimes, protester lawsuits against police can take years to shake out. Last month, convictions were reversed for some Occupy D.C. protesters—five years after their initial arrest.