The District has agreed to pay $1.6 million to settle two lawsuits filed over the violations of demonstrators’ rights during former President Donald Trump‘s inauguration in 2017.
The announcement came on Monday from the ACLU of DC, which brought one of the cases on behalf of a group of activists and journalists who took part in the demonstrations on Trump’s Inauguration Day.
The other lawsuit is a class action filed by the Law Office of DC attorney Jeffrey Light on behalf of more than 100 protesters.
In the lawsuits, former DC Police Chief Peter Newsham and over two dozen MPD officers were accused of engaging in or supervising “constitutional violations including mass arrests of demonstrators without probable cause, unlawful conditions of confinement for detainees, and/or use of excessive force.”
BREAKING: D.C. will pay $1.6 million to settle two lawsuits – filed by the ACLU-DC and @_LightLaw – on behalf of journalists, legal observers, and demonstrators who protested the inauguration of President Trump in January 2017. More here: https://t.co/Y7hVyyMzU7
— ACLU of the District of Columbia (@ACLU_DC) April 26, 2021
“MPD’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 by D.C. police,” said ACLU of DC’s Legal Director Scott Michelman in a release. “The contrast between the over-policing of constitutionally protected speech on Inauguration Day 2017 and the under-policing of a violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol earlier this year starkly demonstrates law enforcement’s institutional biases.”
According to Michelman, there was a disparity between law enforcement’s treatment of a left-leaning diverse group on Inauguration Day 2017 and armed white rioters who stormed Congress on January 6, 2021, as the latter were allowed to “walk away.”
Also commenting on the settlement, attorney Light said “It speaks volumes that the District has chosen to settle rather than defend MPD’s obviously unconstitutional actions in court. Today’s settlements provide some measure of compensation for all the people who were unconstitutionally arrested and confined for exercising their rights on Inauguration Day four years ago.”