FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 7, 2017
CONTACT: Sam Menefee-Libey (909) 576-3113
Metro Police Use Unnecessary and Aggressive Tactics to Raid Home of Known Activist in Washington, D.C.
Sweeping search warrant indicates police seek more evidence from inauguration protests.
Washington, D.C. — On Monday, April 3, 2017, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) raided a known activist’s house in the Petworth neighborhood. MPD broke down the door with guns drawn even though people were home at the time. According to the search warrant, the raid was in furtherance of “the investigation into the conspiracy to riot” and to search for items associated with the “Black Bloc march on January 20, 2017,” the day of protests against Trump’s inauguration.
Items that were taken include an anti-fascist flag that flew on the front porch, a banner that said “kiss capitalism goodbye,” and numerous computers, cell phones, and other personal electronics, including speakers and a television.
On January 20th, thousands of people took to the streets to protest the Trump administration’s transition of power. According to eye-witness accounts and a report from the Police Complaints Board, MPD responded violently and without warning. Activists accuse MPD of breaking the law when police indiscriminately trapped a large group of people, attacking many of them with chemical and projectile weapons, and arresting over 230 people. MPD even violated its own crowd control policy, the Standard Operating Procedures for Handling First Amendment Activity. On March 23rd, MPD was sued by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund for withholding documents related to Interim Chief Peter Newsham’s handling of January 20th protest. Newsham and the MPD were previously sued over the mass arrests in Pershing Park at the World Bank protests in 2002; the city paid $11 million of a $13.25 million settlement over the course of those three lawsuits.
D.C. City Council has been largely silent about the report, but with oversight hearings for MPD and the Office of Police Complaints (OPC) coming up on April 12th, their supporters are demanding that the police be held accountable for their actions.
Hundreds of people are now being excessively charged with felony riot while the prosecution has taken months to provide any evidence of wrongdoing. The government refuses to release the private property of many defendants—including hundreds of cell phones—which were questionably seized and searched. The government has also issued subpoenas for arrestees’ email accounts, social media profiles, and other online activity, and has targeted individuals who were not arrested nor even present on January 20th.
“The raid and mass arrest are part of a greater trend of state repression of activists in the United States,” said Sam Menefee-Libey from the Dead City Legal Posse, a group of activists supporting the arrested protesters. “It is notable that these trumped-up charges, violent crackdown, and overblown response occurred on the very first day of the Trump administration,” continued Menefee-Libey. “But, this violent repression is not new; law enforcement agencies across the country have been engaged in an ongoing campaign to target, terrorize and harass communities of color in Ferguson, Baltimore, and beyond. Over the past few months, felony riot charges have been used against activists in California, Minnesota, North Dakota, and D.C.; Similar excessive charges and politically-motivated grand jury subpoenas have also been used to harass and intimidate activists involved in the Standing Rock protests.”