A year of victories for civil rights

A year of victories for civil rights

PCJF year in review 2009

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund is proud of its accomplishments in defense of the Constitution in 2009. The past year has been replete with victories for civil liberties – and we couldn’t have done it without you.

Military-style checkpoints struck down

A lawsuit filed by the PCJF led a federal appeals court to declare D.C.'s military-style "Neighborhood Safety Zone" checkpoint program to be unconstitutional. The program authorized police to surround a targeted neighborhood, interrogate people without suspicion about their activities and their associations, and prohibit traveling further on a public roadway if the police deemed that a person lacked a police-defined "legitimate reason" for traveling by car. Activities like visiting a friend or going to the grocery store, for example, were not police-allowed "legitimate reasons" to travel.  

If the government had succeeded, these martial-law checkpoints, first deployed in the Trinidad neighborhood of D.C., would have been a model used in urban areas around the country.


Trinidad military-style checkpoint

Largest protest case settlement in U.S. history

In November, the PCJF obtained a $13.7 million dollar settlement – the largest protest case settlement in U.S. history – on behalf of its class action of nearly 700 people falsely arrested at an April 2000 demonstration and march against the "Prison-Industrial Complex" in D.C.

People were held for hours on busses without access to food, water and restrooms, and hundreds were taken to a police gym where they were hog-tied wrist to ankle in stress and duress positions for upwards of 24 hours.

In addition to the landmark damage award, the PCJF has obtained significant changes in police practices and policies regarding mass demonstrations.


Pershing Park victory and exposure of

After more than seven years of class action litigation, the PCJF reached a settlement totaling $8.25 million on behalf of nearly 400 persons arrested in Pershing Park in D.C. in September 2002. Police had encircled, arrested and hog-tied peaceful demonstrators, tourists, passers-by, and legal observers.

PCJF's painstaking litigation uncovered a scandal of document loss and destruction, including the deletion of segments of taped police radio runs and the destruction of the running résumé, a comprehensive log of police activity. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan called the discovery misconduct the "civil equivalent of the Ted Stevens case," and is referring the cover-up for further investigation.


Pershing Park arrests, September 2002

“Independent” journalists on U.S. payroll

The PCJF filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in September against the Broadcasting Board of Governors for unlawfully refusing to release copies of specific U.S. government-paid contracts with journalists who published materials that were hostile to Cuba and prejudicial to the case of the Cuban Five. The BBG is barred from funding domestic propaganda and attempting to influence U.S. opinion.

This lawsuit comes at a time when people in the U.S. and abroad are demanding an end to the 60-year-long blockade and the covert operations and terrorism against Cuba, as well as an end to the misinformation and media manipulation.


BBG - Broadcasting Board of Governors logo

Fighting for government transparency 

In its efforts to increase government transparency and accountability, the PCJF has made multiple demands for disclosure of information under federal and local Freedom of Information Acts. The PCJF has pursued litigation when the government and its agencies refuse to comply with their legal obligations to disclose information to the public.

In late October, the PCJF obtained a massive disclosure of Police General Orders and Special Orders and related directives on how officers are to exercise their authority. The disclosure followed a successful lawsuit after the MPD failed to comply with a FOIA request filed by the PCJF. The PCJF has made these materials available to the public for review to ensure that the police do not operate under a cloak of secrecy.

In addition to the MPD and BBG FOIA lawsuits, the PCJF is fighting for the disclosure of information on the imprisonment, interrogation and death of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, whose statements coerced under torture and known to be false were used by the Bush administration to sell the Iraq invasion; the killing of Trey Joyner in D.C.'s Trinidad neighborhood by plain-clothed Park Police officers working in a secretive FBI-led undercover operation; and plans by the National Park Service to obstruct and restrict First Amendment activities on the National Mall.


MPD General Order

Targeted and interrogated for wearing black

The PCJF victoriously settled a case on behalf of eight protesters who were politically targeted, partly for wearing black clothing, and interrogated about their political beliefs by a secret intelligence unit of the FBI. The FBI and MPD long denied that the unconstitutional interrogation occurred until attorneys at the PCJF were able to uncover and reveal law enforcement documents disclosing the operation.


more seated against wall

Opening "America's Main Street" to the People

This year started off with hundreds of thousands of ordinary people being able to stand along the parade route and witness the historic inauguration of America's first African-American president. The inaugural parade route was opened to the public thanks to the work of attorneys at PCJF who had waged a lengthy battle to open Pennsylvania Avenue, "America's Main Street," to the public on inauguration day.

The victory followed a PCJF lawsuit on behalf of anti-war protesters who were barred from wide swaths of Pennsylvania Avenue on January 20, 2005, during the Bush/Cheney inauguration. The National Park Service had essentially privatized Pennsylvania Avenue on inauguration day, reserving dozens of blocks for the wealthy elite, fat-cat donors and corporate sponsors. The PCJF obtained a landmark ruling striking down this practice and opening the sidewalks to the people.


J20 counter-inaugural

We have a long road ahead this coming year. While we celebrate the victories, we are mindful of the challenges ahead and we need your help. Help us build on these victories and expand the reach of the PCJF.

The PCJF is undertaking critical challenges aimed at ending the domestic spying and surveillance on the people of the United States, keeping the streets and the parklands of the country open to the people for free speech activities, defending those who seek to exercise those cherished rights, and forcing government transparency and accountability. Please make a tax-deductible year end donation to help the Partnership for Civil Justice continue its work in defense of the Constitution – in the courts and in the streets.

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