PRESS RELEASE WEEK OF SOLIDARITY
By PRESS RELEASE
On January 20th, 2017, at approximately 10:30AM, over two-hundred and fifteen protesters were illegally mass-arrested, or “kettled,” by the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC. The arrest took place on the corner of L and 12th Street during the inauguration of the Trump regime, in the proximity of an anti-capitalist and anti-fascist demonstration assembled to resist his administration’s transition into power.
The First Amendment Rights and Policy Standards Act, which took effect within DC in 2005, outlines official policy that the MPD is required to implement while interacting with persons exercising their first amendment rights, as those assembled gathered to do. As noted in the final Monitoring Report issued by the District of Columbia’s Police Complaints Board, in addition to the language of the Act itself, the arrest was in violation of several sections of Title I: the arrest was an indiscriminate round-up of those present on-site at L and 12th as the police lines closed off the public block (including medics, those seeking medical attention, legal observers, journalists, pedestrians, and PCB monitors themselves), as opposed to the arrest of specific non-compliant demonstrators against which they had probable cause (Section 107 C); they failed to provide audible warnings or dispersal orders to the crowd present for the demonstration, at no point did they inform those present for the demo that their first amendment protest had allegedly become “riotous” action, and they did not afford those seeking medical attention or those intending to leave the demo a means of exiting safely (Section 107 E.1); throughout the duration of the march and the arrest, the police used chemical weapons and concussion grenades (“stingers”) against protestors as a generalized method of crowd control, with or without provocation (Section 116 B.1-3); as the vast majority of the ~500-700 people in the crowd were engaged in peaceful demonstration - noted by legal observers of the DC National Lawyers Guild and journalist accounts of the arrest - it was likewise a violation for the police to corner off L and 12th with police lines, as there was no “probable cause to believe that a significant number or percentage of the persons located in the area or zone have committed unlawful acts” (Section 108); and as seven journalists were swept up in the arrest, the media were clearly not afforded full access to the site of the demonstration (Section 114 C.1-3).
The conditions of the arrest likewise violated the MPD’s own Standard Operating Procedures for Handling First Amendment Assemblies and Mass Demonstrations, updated in December 2016, which outlines that when a first amendment protest allegedly becomes “violent”, the police are required to issue warnings (at least one and up-to three) and dispersal orders prior to arrests - no warnings were issued at any time throughout the duration of the march (Section V.F.2 & IX.G.7). The SOP likewise re-enforces the language of the First Amendments Rights Act by stating that if arrests become necessary, they must be “of those individual law violators based on probable cause.” (Section V.F.3)
The illegal arrest was ordered by new Police Chief Peter Newsham. The District remembers Newsham as the Assistant Police Chief who ordered the mass arrest of over four-hundred nonviolent demonstrators that assembled in Pershing Park in 2002; protestors were hog-tied, detained for twenty-four hours, and ultimately released. No convictions were made, and the illegal arrest cost the District an ~$8.25 million settlement in a civil lawsuit. It is unclear how much this new arrest will cost the city or what promotion Newsham will receive for it, but what is clear is that he maintains his policy of “arrest first, indict later,” to the detriment of the District. On March 24th, four members of the Dead City Legal Posse testified against the appointment of Newsham, along with the Partnership of Civil Justice, which has filed a new lawsuit against DC MPD.
It is clear that this arrest was not only a distinct violation of city ordinance and police policy, but that it is an act of political repression from the Trump administration against those peoples who assembled for the demonstration. These charges are unprecedented, and an extraordinary reach by the prosecution. The demo that assembled at Logan Circle did so autonomously, in a moment of direct action against a hostile Presidential administration, a militarized State of police officers ready to follow orders, and a rising tide of far-right populism prepared to wield political violence against marginalized communities. Protestors have been shot in Seattle at anti-Trump rallies; mosques are burning across Texas; Jewish communities have seen waves of bomb-threats and harassment all around the country; family members are being detained and delivered to detention centers for involuntary labor, or shot dead in the streets. For those assembled, families, friends, and communities are under attack. The demonstration assembled on January 20th to stand in direct opposition to this assault, and to refuse both Trump’s “election” and the entire order that legitimizes him.
In this repression, the two-hundred and fifteen arrestees are not alone. Since last April, over eight-hundred water protectors have been arrested in Standing Rock, ND. A literal army of police units from across multiple states was deployed to ensure the colonization of Standing Rock for the benefit of Energy Transfer Partners and the Dakota Access Pipeline. In the face of this genocide, water protectors were subjected to police dogs, blows to the head and knees from batons, rubber bullets to the face and concussion grenades that maimed limbs, water cannons in below freezing temperatures, and hundreds of cases of hypothermia. For months, sniper rifles were set upon the encampments at least twenty-hours a day, despite being full of elders and children; this is neither unexpected or uncommon - a crowd of nonviolent protestors from the Festival of Resistance were similarly brutalized with chemical weapons by MPD during the kettle that included an elder and a seven-year old child. And yet, these thousands of Indigenous resistors and activists stood against the Dakota Access Pipeline in overwhelmingly nonviolent direct action. Now they face prosecution from grand juries of the very same kind that issued indictments for the L12 arrestees.
They are joined by the one-hundred and six people recently alleged by the California Highway Patrol to have participated in an antifascist confrontation with the Traditionalist Workers’ Party, a neo-Nazi political party, in Sacramento last summer where six people were stabbed. They are joined by over six hundred immigrants, from across eleven different states, who were ripped out of their homes and kidnapped from their families during ICE sweeps the mornings of February 9th, 13th and 14th. They are joined by dozens of people arrested and detained in Seattle and Chicago during the national airport demonstrations against the Muslim Ban. They are joined by the hundreds of prison-slaves already incarcerated - at Allegheny County Jail, Tecumseh State Correctional, and James T. Vaughn Correctional - who have organized labor strikes, set fire to mattresses, and seized temporary control of the prisons to demand humane living conditions, access to real medical care, and the provision of educational and rehabilitation programs.
The context, method, or tactics of these moments of resistance are inconsequential to the arrests made and to this regime; they arrest simply because people resist. But people must continue to resist, and to struggle against the institutions that place their families, their homes, and their lives under attack. We must resist illegal arrests; the grand juries convened to indict us; prosecutors who takes their orders directly from Trump; and most especially, we will continue to resist Trump himself and the systems that give him power.
This week, the week of April 1st to April 7th, we invite people everywhere to take action in a Week of Solidarity with political prisoners across the country, from Standing Rock to the District! You are the resistance!
Metropolitan Police SOP
First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act of 2004
Police Complaints Form
Learning As We Go
What Happened During My Arrest