The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) and its project, the Center for Protest Law & Litigation (CPLL), filed a lawsuit against the District of Columbia Police Department to force disclosure of records under D.C.’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) involving the DC MPD’s violent response to racial justice demonstrations against police misconduct throughout 2020.The MPD is illegally withholding key documents that would expose its command decisions to repeatedly unleash a barrage of force against peaceful protesters including assaulting them with chemical irritants, flash grenades and stinger grenades as well as the officers involved in inflicting this violence.
“The DC police department is a known recidivist violator of the District’s public information laws and again are requiring litigation to force their legal compliance,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, constitutional rights lawyer and executive director of the Center for Protest Law & Litigation and PCJF. “They have no lawful basis for trying to hide records as to their use of force against persons engaged in free speech activities and doing so is only an effort to evade accountability for unlawful violence inflicted against racial justice protestors. Moreover, these records are crucial as we investigate the DC MPD’s relationships with right-wing groups like the Proud Boys who were allowed to bring marauding violence to Washington, D.C. in the months before the January 6th attack and were not subject to any similar treatment.”
As part of its investigation into the MPD, the PCJF filed FOIA demands in 2020 seeking command center logs related to the June 1, 2020, clearing of Lafayette Park which would reflect command decisions and actions taken by multiple agencies, as well as use of force reports and other records for multiple protests throughout 2020 where the MPD violently attacked protesters with less-lethal-munitions.