Police officers “knocked down” a 10-year-old boy and exposed him and his mother to pepper spray during a rally against US President Donald Trump’s inauguration, according to amendments to a lawsuit filed by a civil rights organisation.
The lawsuit, which was originally filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia (ACLU-DC) on behalf of four plaintiffs in June, was amended on Wednesday to add the 10-year-old boy and his mother, Gwen Frisbie-Fulton.
The lawsuit names the child as “A.S.” in order to protect his identity.
During Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2016, protesters from across the country amassed in the nation’s capital.
When police kettled a group of demonstrators, bystanders, journalists, medics and others who had been present during an anti-fascist and anti-capitalist bloc march, the officers continued to use pepper spray and other weapons, such as stinger grenades, against them.
Frisbie-Fulton and A.S., who had been nearby, were caught in the mayhem, according to the lawsuit.
“As she and A.S. tried to escape the spraying, a line of officers knocked A.S. to the ground. Frisbie-Fulton picked A.S. up and tried to carry him away from the melee, but she coughed and choked from the thick clouds of pepper spray, and could not carry him further,” the ACLU-DC’s statement explained.
Frisbie-Fulton claimed the officers endangered her and her son’s safety.
“I was terrified for my son’s safety. When he was knocked down, I instinctually jumped on top of him to cover his body with mine,” said Frisbie-Fulton, as quoted in the press release.
“We are told the police are there to keep us safe, but on Inauguration Day they were the ones who put us in danger.”
Speaking to Al Jazeera by telephone, Scott Michelman, senior staff attorney at the ACLU-DC, said the addition of Frisbie-Fulton and her son to the lawsuit “reveals the extent of the police department’s wantonness on Inauguration Day”.
“There is no argument that the 10-year-old peaceful protester or his mother were part of any riot or posed any threat,” Michelman said, arguing that the incident further demonstrated that “the police were out of control that day”.
The complaint’s amendments also identified 27 Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers, among them eight supervisors, who the ACLU-DC alleges ordered or engaged in unlawful police conduct, the rights group’s statement added.
When the lawsuit was first filed on June 21, the only named defendant was Police Chief Peter Newsham.
“We were pleased to be able to name these specific officers,” said Michelman, explaining that the identification of the individuals was possible through a combination of witness accounts, plaintiffs’ recollection, photographs and testimony.
“Unlike the US Attorney’s Office, which charged over 200 people criminally based on the actions of a few, we tried very hard to only name people we have reason to believe personally did something wrong, either by using excessive force or ordering some of the constitutional violations we allege.”