PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 11, 2017
CONTACT: Sam Menefee-Libey (909) 576-3113
info@dclegalposse.org
www.dclegalposse.org

Activists Challenge Inauguration Day Arrests at D.C. Council’s Police Oversight Hearing
Demands include a full and independent investigation of MPD conduct

Washington, D.C., April 12, 2017 – Activists with the Dead City Legal Posse will join Stop Police Terror and the ACLU of D.C. in testifying at D.C. Council’s budget oversight hearings of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the Office of Police Complaints on April 12th. The groups are demanding an independent investigation into the unconstitutional and illegal police tactics used on Inauguration Day, including the mass arrest of over 200 demonstrators now facing felony riot charges. The Dead City Legal Posse and Defend J20 Resistance are calling for the charges to be dropped and for an independent investigation to follow the Office of Police Complaints report about police misconduct on Inauguration Day. The hearing will take place at 9:30 AM in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson District Building, and the public may testify.

Last week, the Dead City Legal Posse announced a call-in campaign to D.C. Councilmembers David Grosso and Mary Cheh from the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, which is overseeing the hearing, to ask that they use the April 12th hearing to press the MPD for answers about the mass arrest on January 20th. Dead City Legal Posse member Sam Menefee-Libey said, “These 214 felony rioting cases are evidence of the extreme police overreach on Inauguration Day. MPD had no good reason to arrest so many people, least of all without a dispersal warning, so they’re chalking them up as criminals when it’s the police who broke the law.”

The Office of Police Complaints report from February 27th includes Police Control Board observations of officers deploying chemical weapons indiscriminately, using police lines to “kettle” and mass arrest demonstrators, and officers failing to audibly warn demonstrators before using force against them—all of which are tactics that violate the First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act of 2004 as well as MPD’s own Standard Operating Procedures for Handling First Amendment Assemblies and Mass Demonstrations, updated in December 2016. The Police Standards Act was passed after Acting Chief of Police Newsham, who ordered the arrests on Inauguration Day, ordered the similarly illegal mass-arrest of hundreds of demonstrators at World Bank protests in 2002. The 2002 arrests resulted in lawsuits that D.C. settled for over $11 million.

The D.C. Council and the Mayor have essentially remained silent on the February report from the Office of Police Complaints, which recommended, “an independent consultant should be appointed to investigate and examine all aspects of MPD’s actions on January 20, 2017.” No such investigation has been initiated. By contrast, activists and First Amendment advocates have been raising their voices against the police abuse on Inauguration Day: the National Lawyers Guild and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund have already sued MPD over the arrests, and both organizations testified alongside the ACLU and numerous community organizations against the appointment of Peter Newsham as metropolitan police chief.

This is not the first instance of police—both in the District and in the nation—using aggressive tactics to target those critical of an authoritarian state: these tactics are an everyday reality for marginalized communities, particularly those of color or of the undocumented. Moreover, these particular circumstances are a direct analogue to the police response to the 2002 Pershing Park protests. Matthew Whitley of Defend J20 Resistance stated, “D.C. police have done this before: mass arresting hundreds and only giving up after mounting public pressure against them. They think they can get away with it this time by overcharging the demonstrators with felonies. So before any of these cases go to trial, we need to put the police on trial and make them answer for their indiscriminate abuse of demonstrators.”

 

For more information, contact: 
Sam Menefee-Libey (Dead City Legal Posse)
smenefeelibey@gmail.com
909-576-3113

Matthew Whitley (Defend J20 Resistance)
(929) 335-4713
press@defendj20resistance.net

Hearing Details:
Budget Oversight Hearings on Fiscal Year 2017
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 9:30AM
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20004
Room 500

Relevant links: 

Dead City Legal Posse: http://www.dclegalposse.org

Stop Police Terror Project D.C.: https://www.sptdc.com/

D.C. Police Complaints Board report on Inauguration Day police misconduct: https://policecomplaints.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/office%20of%20police%20complaints/publication/attachments/Inaguration%20Protest%20Monitoring%20Report%20FINAL.pdf

First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act of 2004: http://www.dcwatch.com/archives/council15/15-968.htm

Metropolitan Police Standard Operating Procedures for Handling First Amendment Assemblies and Mass Demonstrations: https://go.mpdconline.com/GO/SOP_16_01.pdf

Call-in campaign targeting D.C. Council: http://www.dclegalposse.org/call-in/

Video of elderly woman and child getting pepper sprayed by police at Inauguration Day demonstrations: https://twitter.com/willdizard/status/822536469755609088

National Lawyers Guild lawsuit against the MPD: https://www.nlg.org/lawsuit-challenges-dc-police-depts-unlawful-use-of-chemical-less-lethal-weapons-felony-riot-charges-on-j20/

ACLU accuses MPD of violation protesters’ rights: http://dailycaller.com/2017/01/28/aclu-accuses-d-c-police-of-violating-rights-of-inauguration-protesters/

Partnership for Civil Justice Fund lawsuit against the MPD for withholding information on Inauguration Day arrests: http://www.justiceonline.org/wtop_lawsuit_dc_police_withholding_reports_on_protest_response

Firsthand journalist account from the mass arrest on Inauguration Day: https://freedom.press/news/what-happened-during-my-arrest-trumps-inauguration/

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