D.C. Police arrested over 200 people on Inauguration Day and charged them with rioting, which can carry a $25,000 fine and ten years in prison. Of the 217, only a minority participated in violence such as setting fires, throwing objects at police, and vandalism. It is unclear whether every person arrested was even a participant in the protests. According to Fox13, two of those arrested were journalists.
Attorneys are fighting back, focusing on arrests that occurred at 12th and L Street NW, where officers “kettled” a group of protesters, a crowd control tactic in which officers surround people and prevent or their exit. They then began a mass arrest.
Police say that these were the members of a “group acting in a concerted effort engaged in acts of vandalism and several instances of destruction of property,” according to an MPD statement, and that it responded swiftly to contain the violence.
The lawsuit claims that police then “indiscriminately and repeatedly” used chemical irritants, batons, and flash-bang grenades against the people inside the kettle, which included “members of the media, attorneys, legal observers, and medics,” and protesters who did not commit crimes.
BMark Goldstone, a lawyer representing about 50 of those arrested, told Fox13 that police “basically identified a location that had problems and arrested everyone in that location.”
“They arrested everyone in a single location including reporters, lawyers, law students, and non-riotous protesters,” Goldstone told Fox13.
MPD has denied using flash-bang grenades against protesters. Video by News2Share’s Ford Fischer shows otherwise:
Interim D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said in a news conference that he was very, very pleased” by his officers’ response. Mayor Muriel Bowser also expressed support:
I support @DCPoliceDept and other law enforcement who have come to DC to support our officers as they have handled crowds and this event.
— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) January 20, 2017
One person arrested later told News2Share anonymously that they were arrested and charged with rioting, although they had never participated in activism before Friday and only came to march behind a banner. They say they committed no violence and did nothing wrong.