February 23, 2017

The rotten anti-protest record of DC's new police chief, Peter Newsham

Washington Post, 2005 - The District government agreed yesterday to pay a total of $425,000 to seven people caught up in a mass arrest at a downtown park in September 2002, acknowledging that they were wrongfully arrested and promising to adopt changes in police procedures.

The agreement settles a lawsuit in which the seven alleged that D.C. police violated their constitutional rights and department policy during the roundup of about 400 protesters and bystanders in Pershing Park. The settlement also requires D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey to send a personal letter of apology to each of the plaintiffs.

... The arrests occurred Sept. 27, 2002, during demonstrations against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. With Ramsey's approval, Assistant Police Chief Peter J. Newsham ordered officers to corral demonstrators and anyone else within the boundaries of the park, on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, and to charge them with failing to obey police. Those arrested were put in plastic handcuffs, taken away on buses and detained on floors for as long as 36 hours.

A subsequent internal investigation by police, made public by a federal judge in September 2003, found that Newsham never gave an order for the crowd to disperse and that police, therefore, had no justification for making the arrests.

Alternet, Jan 2017 - According to a class-action lawsuit, more than 200 people hit with "felony riot" charges following their mass arrest at Friday’s inauguration protest in Washington, D.C. were indiscriminately swept up “without warning and without any dispersal order” and attacked with chemical weapons, flash-bang grenades and batons.

The crackdown, which was overseen by acting Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham, echoes another mass arrest that Newsham ordered as assistant police chief in 2002, in which hundreds of people were indiscriminately kettled and hogtied, forcing the government to eventually pay out millions of dollars in settlements.

More than 200 people arrested in Friday’s sweep face felony riot charges punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The arrestees have had their phones and cameras confiscated as evidence, according to Jeffrey Light, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who filed the class-action lawsuit Friday on behalf those detained. The lawsuit, which was emailed to AlterNet, names Newsham, as well as “John Doe” Metropolitan Police Department and Park Police officers.

“Without warning and without any dispersal order, the police officers kettled all of the plaintiffs,” states the lawsuit, which notes that “members of the media, attorneys, legal observers and medics” were among those rounded up.

“Defendants John Doe MPD Officers and/or John Doe Park Police Officers deployed a large amount of chemical irritants against the plaintiffs, as well as struck multiple plaintiffs with their batons, and deployed flash-bang grenades,” the lawsuit continues. “The use of chemical irritants against Plaintiffs, the use of the batons against Plaintiffs and the deployment of flash-bang grenades under the circumstances constituted unreasonable and excessive force.”

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