Police sprung pop-up lines, trapped, surrounded and detained dozens
The Partnership for Civil Justice has reached a settlement with the District of Columbia over the false arrests and abusive detention of four people who were swept up by the police in a political round-up on September 27, 2002 at Vermont and K Streets N.W. during a protest against the IMF/World Bank and the then-threatened war in Iraq. The police sprung pop-up police lines, trapped, surrounded and detained dozens of protestors, legal observers and passersby. Those arrested were held overnight, tied wrist to ankle in stress and duress positions.
Each of the four arrestees will received $50,000 from the District of Columbia. The total monetary award will be substantially larger as the District has agreed to additionally make payment for attorneys fees and costs for the approximately four years of litigation.
The settlement obligates the District of Columbia to provide, and document, training to all officers employed within the Special Operations Division, the specialized unit within the MPD which is assigned to protest activity. The training and documentation required to be provided to SOD officers will include warnings that no officer may arrest any protestor for parading or demonstrating without a permit, detailed descriptions of new restrictions on the use of police lines, new rules that prohibit the SOD from requiring protestors to have a permit and from sending protest organizers to other agencies for secondary permits (a tactic the SOD has routinely used to prevent or frustrate protest), as well as the rights of protestors to engage in free speech without unlawful police interference.
In order to ensure accountability and responsibility, each SOD officer must sign a written statement attesting that he or she has received written notice of the provisions of the First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act which sets forth restrictions and obligations upon the police in the context of free speech activities. The documentation will be required to be maintained at the SOD. The First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act was enacted by the D.C. Council in response to this and other cases detailing widespread violations of the constitutional rights of protestors in Washington, D.C.
Each of the four plaintiffs will have their arrest records expunged. The arrests will be effectively declared a legal nullity or non-occurrence.
The plaintiffs in this case are Jeffrey Barham and Miles Swanson, who at the time of the their arrests were acting as National Lawyers Guild Legal Observers with the plainly recognizable bright green caps; Brian McAteer, who at the time of his arrest was a high school student, and was filming the activity; and Laury Saligman, a bicycle racer who had paused to rest from her training routine and observe the protests when she was grabbed and thrown off her bike and arrested by DC police.
This case was litigated by Carl Messineo and Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, co-founders of the Partnership for Civil Justice. The PCJ is currently litigating the class action lawsuit also stemming from September 27, 2002 arrests of nearly 400 persons who were in Pershing Park. That lawsuit, Barham, et al. v. District of Columbia, et al. remains pending.
There is also a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of others who were arrested in the vicinity of Vermont and K that is being handled by other attorneys, including those affiliated with the local D.C. American Civil Liberties Union. The PCJ is not responsible for that litigation.
The Partnership for Civil Justice is a civil rights and legal organization based in Washington DC that litigates civil rights and constitutional rights cases, and has filed a series of lawsuits challenging the District of Columbia M.P.D.’s unconstitutional tactics to disrupt lawful protest and assembly and unlawfully use mass arrests as a means to sweep political activists off the street and truncate demonstration activity. The Partnership’s litigation first exposed the use of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces against political dissenters, and revealed that the DC MPD had been carrying out an illegal ongoing domestic spying operation in which officers are sent on long-term assignments to pose as political activists. PCJ’s First Amendment litigation has been featured on NOW with Bill Moyers and in the movie Unconstitutional.