A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia on June 21 accuses the Metropolitan Police Department of rectally probing and violating the rights of detainees who were arrested on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.
The lawsuit alleges that the police handcuffed some people so tightly that they sustained injuries, held others for as long as 16 hours and deprived detainees of bathrooms, food and water, reports The Hill.
The ACLU-DC is representing two protesters, a photojournalist and a legal observer, who said in the lawsuit that the police exposed them to "constitutional, statutory, and common law violations."
Those being sued include Police Chief Peter Newsham, up to 170 police officers and the District of Columbia.
The lawsuit alleges that the police made unconstitutional arrests and used excessive force, according to a June 21 ACLU-DC press release.
The ACLU-DC said the police used a crowd-control technique called "kettling," which included trapping and detaining more than 200 protesters, many of whom were innocent, for hours before arresting them.
The cops also reportedly used concussion grenades, flash-bang grenades, pepper spray, smoke flares and tear gas on people inside and outside of the kettle without warnings, according to the ACLU-DC.
Photojournalist Shay Horse, one of the plaintiffs the ACLU-DC is representing, recalled the police officers' actions in the press release.
I've been documenting protests for years and I've never seen police act like this in America in such an open, blatant way in broad daylight. So many of us suffered tremendously just for exercising our First Amendment rights to cover the demonstrations or participate in them. With this lawsuit, I want to stand up for all the protestors who were abused and bullied and assaulted and molested.
The police department issued a statement on June 20, reports The Hill:
During the 58th Presidential Inauguration, there were thousands of individuals who exercised their constitutional right to peacefully assemble and speak out for their cause. Unfortunately, there was another group of individuals who chose to engage in criminal acts, destroying property and hurling projectiles, injuring at least six officers.
These individuals were ultimately arrested for their criminal actions, and the bulk of them are pending prosecution after being indicted by a grand jury. As with any pending criminal or civil matter, we will continue to support and respect the formal legal process. Moreover, all instances of use of force by officers and allegations of misconduct will be fully investigated.
In 2009, the District of Columbia agreed to pay $8.25 million of taxpayer money to settle a similar lawsuit for a mass arrest during the World Bank protests in 2002, noted The Washington Post.
In that case, nearly 400 bystanders and protesters were arrested, but police did not warn people to disperse before arresting them, and hogtied some for more than 24 hours.
Former District of Columbia Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey issued an apology for those arrests.