ACLU raises concerns about Inauguration Day arrests

Demonstrators attend the Women's March on Washington near the White House on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 in Washington. (AP Photo/Sait Serkan Gurbuz)

WASHINGTON — Charges have been dropped against a journalist who was arrested during Inauguration Day protests, as the ACLU expressed concern Friday about police conduct that day.

Evan A. Engel was charged with felony rioting. Six people working as journalists were among the group of 230 people arrested in D.C. after self-described anti-capitalists began breaking windows on Inauguration Day.

“After consultation with the counsel for Mr. Engel, who is a journalist with Vocativ, as well as a review of evidence presented to us by law enforcement, we have concluded that we will not proceed with the charge against this individual,” U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia spokesman Bill Miller said in a news release.

“We are continuing to work with the Metropolitan Police Department to review evidence related to the arrests on Jan. 20,” Miller said.

Monica Hopkins-Maxwell, the executive director of the ACLU of the District of Columbia, meanwhile said the civil rights organization is investigating police actions on Inauguration Day to determine whether legal action is appropriate.

“As more details emerge about the conduct of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) on Inauguration Day, the ACLU of the District of Columbia is becoming concerned that law enforcement may have violated demonstrators’ rights in any of three ways,” Hopkins-Maxwell said in a news release.

The three areas of concern detailed by the ACLU’s Hopkins-Maxwell are what she characterizes as the indiscriminate corralling and detaining of individuals including journalists; the use of pepper spray on people not breaking the law; and the holding of detained people outdoors for up to eight hours with no access to food or bathroom facilities.

On Saturday, D.C. police responded to WTOP’s request for comment with the following statement:

MPD respects and protects the rights of journalists to have access and the ability to report on events of local as well as national importance. In an event such as the one that occurred during the Inauguration, MPD members are directed to attempt to identify journalists and to not arrest them. Several individuals, who subsequently were properly identified as members of a media organization, were initially detained in the area of 12th and K Streets, Northwest, on January 20, 2017. Those individuals who presented appropriate media credentials or could otherwise confirm to be journalists were released. Information regarding all other individuals arrested at that time was presented to the US Attorney’s Office, which made the determination to charge those detained with felony rioting. Currently, the investigation is being carried out by the US Attorney’s Office.

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