This groundbreaking constitutional rights lawsuit charged that local and federal law enforcement violated the U.S. Constitution by singling out people for arrest based on their perceived political ideology, targeting persons the government deemed by their manner of dress to be, or to associate with, anarchists. As in decades past, the government targeted those who it categorized as political opponents and anarchists, in this particular instance falsely arresting a group who was together eating food – most of whom were wearing black and carrying political literature – as a day of lawful mass demonstration against U.S. war in the Middle East was winding down on April 20, 2002. FBI agents arrived to use the false arrests for intelligence gathering.
The Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) gave a secret FBI intelligence unit access to interrogate the protestors on video. The FBI interrogators demanded disclosure of activists’ political activities, associations, names of friends and associates, and even demanded disclosure of an arrestee’s religious beliefs. Law enforcement took images of their political literature and materials, examined their bodies, and photographed any political tattoos.
For years, the MPD denied allowing the FBI to engage in the interrogations. The MPD denied the FBI was even on the scene. Ultimately, FBI agents identified Sergeant Jeffrey Madison of the MPD’s Intelligence Unit as having allowed them access. Evidence developed by the plaintiffs showed that members of a joint MPD-FBI intelligence team acting undercover had infiltrated the group earlier in the day at the demonstration rally site and proceeded with protestors to the garage.
The cover-up continued for years as MPD’s attorneys falsely represented that the MPD’s Joint Operations Command Center did not create a running resume or log of the underlying events. After years of intense litigation efforts resulting in a nearly $100,000 sanction against the MPD for discovery violations, plaintiffs’ counsel proved that not only had the MPD created the running resume, but that it had been in the possession of the MPD’s Office of General Counsel all along. The running resume duly noted that the FBI was on the scene and interviews of the arrestees were being conducted.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund successfully secured the expungement of the arrest records for those arrested, and received a victorious settlement on behalf of eight people who were illegally arrested, including monetary payments to the individuals and changes in police policies.
The ‘Stirfry’ Case: Elizabeth Bolger, et al. v. District of Columbia, et al., U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia | Case No. 03-CV-906
The Washington Post – D.C. to pay $450,000 to war protesters over 2002 interrogation
The District agreed to pay $450,000 Monday to eight war protesters to settle a civil lawsuit they filed after a 2002 interrogation. The protesters had alleged that FBI agents had detained them in a Washington parking garage and interrogated them on videotape about their beliefs.
The Washington Post Editorial – Editorial on PCJF litigation
Featured in Washington Post. A Black Mark: D.C. police and the FBI need to explain their actions in a 2002 protest incident.
The Washington Post – PCJF Reveals FBI Intel Gathering in Protestor Arrests
A secret FBI intelligence unit helped detain a group of war protesters in a downtown Washington parking garage in April 2002 and interrogated some of them on videotape about their political and religious beliefs, newly uncovered documents and interviews show.