Telesur: US Park Police Must Change the Way They Handle Protests

Telesur: US Park Police Must Change the Way They Handle Protests

From teleSUR

U.S. Park Police will be forced to change the way they handle protests after wrongfully surrounding, arresting and hog-tying protesters.

According to a new settlement reached between the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and two federal bodies, the United States Park Police will have to change the way they handle mass protests, which includes stopping the practice of “kettling.”

The PCJF announced Monday that U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan has issued preliminary approval for a US$2.2 million settlement agreement with the Justice Department and the Department of the Interior Monday – that will also include changing police practices.

The agreement is one step closer to closing the 12-year-old class action suit, which was filed following the September 2002 mass arrests in Pershing Park, Washington, near the White House, where people had gathered for anti-globalization protests.

During the incident, U.S. Park Police helped surround people in the park who had gathered for a demonstration and prevented them from leaving, and then arrested them – a practice known as kettling. They were then taken into custody by the Metropolitan Police Department, many of whom were hog-tied for hours while they waited to be released.

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The PCJF filed a lawsuit in 2009 on behalf of some 400 people who were rounded up and arrested without warning.

The arrests sparked outrage across the city, since some of those detained were nurses in the city for a conference, as well as attorneys and other professionals walking to work.

According to the new proposed settlement agreements, the U.S. Park Police – a special branch of the U.S. federal police force that covers national parks in key U.S. cities – will have to change several practices.

When monitoring a march or rally, the force must now provide at least three clear and ample warnings to demonstrators if they are violating any laws and must give them plenty of time to comply with any orders given before conducting any arrests. They must also provide probable cause for any protester arrested, and are prohibited from encircling demonstrators with police lines.

“Although many media pundits and politicians have suggested that the social justice movement and the free speech and assembly rights of protesters have to be constricted for the sake of security and order, this settlement disproves that myth,” said PCJF Executive Director Mara Verheyden-Hilliard in a statement.

“There is simply no basis by which any other jurisdiction’s police department can legitimately claim it cannot enact these procedural standards that conform to fundamental constitutional requirements,” she added.

The settlement also requires that Park Police conform to these policies even when another law enforcement agency working alongside them initiates conflicting actions against protesters.

This content was originally published by teleSUR.