ACLU Suing DC Police Over Inauguration Day Arrests


The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Wednesday accusing police in Washington, DC, of violating the constitutional rights of protesters, journalists, and legal observers during mass arrests on President Trump’s Inauguration Day.

The lawsuit accuses Metropolitan Police Department officers of making unlawful arrests and using excessive force, pointing to the use of pepper spray, tear gas, and restraints that were so tight they reportedly caused one of the plaintiffs’ wrists to bleed.

“In the course of the roundup and subsequent processing of demonstrators,
police held detainees for hours without food, water, or access to toilets; handcuffed detainees so tightly as to cause injury or loss of feeling; and subjected some detainees to manual rectal probing,” lawyers from the ACLU of the District of Columbia wrote in the complaint.

The Metropolitan Police Department issued a statement on Wednesday defending the arrests, and saying that “all instances of use of force by officers and allegations of misconduct will be fully investigated.”

“Each year, the men and women of MPD protect the rights and ensure the safety of thousands of First Amendment assemblies, demonstrations and protests. During the 58th Presidential Inauguration, there were thousands of individuals who exercised their constitutional right to peacefully assemble and speak out for their cause. Unfortunately, there was another group of individuals who chose to engage in criminal acts, destroying property and hurling projectiles, injuring at least six officers,” the department said.

More than 200 people were arrested on rioting charges on Jan. 20. The US Attorney’s Office in Washington is pursuing a mix of rioting and property destruction charges against the majority of those arrestees.

The ACLU’s lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, comes a week after the plaintiff dropped his case in a different lawsuit against law enforcement over the Jan. 20 arrests. The lawyer in that case, Jeffrey Light, told BuzzFeed News at the time that he planned to refile the lawsuit at a later date, but declined to provide specifics.

The mass arrests took place during a demonstration in Washington that had been billed as an “anti-capitalist” and “anti-fascist” march. Many protesters wore all black and covered their faces. As the march moved into a downtown area, some participants broke the windows of storefronts and cars. Police moved in, and after pursuing the demonstrators for several blocks cordoned off a large group at one intersection, and placed people under arrest.

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