The ACLU of D.C. on Monday announced that the District has agreed to a $1.6 million settlement of two lawsuits over the treatment of protesters at then-President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017.
The ACLU said in a statement that the lawsuits — one filed by the organization on behalf of six protesters and journalists; the other, a class-action suit by 100 people brought by Jeffrey Light — alleged “constitutional violations” against more than two dozen police officers and then-Police Chief Peter Newsham, “including mass arrests of demonstrators without probable cause, unlawful conditions of confinement for detainees, and/or use of excessive force.”
The lawsuits allege that police officers “kettled” more than 200 protesters and denied them access to food, water and restrooms for up to 16 hours, as well as using pepper spray, flash-bang grenades and more without warning on people inside and outside the kettle.
The D.C. police’s “unconstitutional guilt-by-association policing and excessive force, including the use of chemical weapons, not only injured our clients physically but also chilled their speech and the speech of countless others who wished to exercise their First Amendment rights but feared an unwarranted assault,” Scott Michelman, legal director of the D.C. ACLU, said in a statement.
He contrasted the police’s reaction to the diverse crowd with that of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump crowd, in which “armed white insurrectionists with a right-wing message stormed Congress, and the police let them walk away.”
The ACLU said the office of Attorney General Karl Racine “will not oppose motions to expunge the arrest records of plaintiffs in both suits,” and that the police will modify procedures to as not to leave protesters without unduly long waits for restrooms and water.
The police department declined to comment on the settlement.