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Federal Lawsuit to Stop DC MPD’s Indiscriminate and Violent Use of Less Lethal Weapons


The PCJF, and its Center for Protest Law & Litigation, have filed a federal lawsuit against the District of Columbia challenging the MPD’s “repressive and violent tactics including the authorized indiscriminate use of ‘less lethal’ projectile weapons against peaceful protestors and bystanders, gratuitously and without notice or warning and in order to intentionally retaliate against and inflict pain upon protestors challenging policing in our society.”

The lawsuit seeks to end the MPD’s unconstitutional and punitive tactics of indiscriminately deploying less lethal weapons, including maiming projectiles, into crowds of persons engaged in First Amendment protected activities, in particular those challenging racist police violence. 

The constitutional rights complaint is brought on behalf of protestors who were peacefully present at various racial justice demonstrations held in Washington, D.C., during 2020 in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, and whose injuries inflicted by the D.C. MPD included wounds consistent with stinger grenades, foam or rubber bullets, and flash bang devices. Two plaintiffs were subject to munitions that exploded many pieces of shrapnel into their legs causing bloody shredding, punctures, lacerations, and other mutilation.

“The D.C. MPD has operated with impunity, violently attacking peaceful protestors demanding police reform,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, constitutional rights lawyer and executive director of the PCJF at the lawsuit’s filing. “The MPD will continue to injure the residents of and visitors to the nation’s capital as long as they think there are no consequences. People engaged in free speech activities in D.C. remain at high risk. This lawsuit exposes a pattern of violent, cruel, and indiscriminate use of weapons against peaceful protesters clearly indicating that the MPD saw their ‘targets’ as ‘enemy combatants’ rather than people engaged in First Amendment protected activity in pursuit of police reform.”  

Ferris et al. v. D.C., United States District Court for the District of Columbia |Case No. 1:23-cv-481

Ferris et al v. D.C. – Litigation Complaint 2023

Ferris et al v. D.C. – Opposition to Motion to Dismiss


PCJF Files Federal Lawsuit Against DC for MPD’s Indiscriminate and Violent Use of Less Lethal Weapons Against Racial Justice Protests

Press Coverage

The Washington Post – DC sued for police use of force during 2020 racial justice protests

DCist – Protesters Sue D.C. Over Tactics Used In 2020

The Davis Vanguard – Lawsuit Claims DC Police Trampled Rights of Demonstrators in Justice Protests