PRESS RELEASE DEC. 4 - DC Police Commander Questioned on Use of Force against Inauguration Day Defendants in Widely Watched Felony Trial



Defend J20 Resistance
For Immediate Release: December 4, 2017

Sam Menefee-Libey of DC Legal Posse : 909.576.3113 /
Kris Hermes of Defend J20 Resistance 510-681-6361 or

DC Police Commander Questioned on Use of Force against Inauguration Day Defendants in Widely Watched Felony Trial

Police failed to issue dispersal orders, admitted to use of chemical, projectile weapons despite lack of danger to public

Washington, DC – Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Commander Keith Deville testified for the third day Monday in a widely watched political trial for six of 194 people facing serious felony and misdemeanor charges from Inauguration Day protests on January 20, 2017. Defendants Jennifer Armento, Oliver Harris, Brittne Lawson, Michelle “Miel” Macchio, Christina Simmons, and Alexei Wood are being tried on riot-related charges and face more than 60 years in prison if convicted.

Deville, who works in the MPD Homeland Security Bureau and was in charge of the Civil Disturbance Units (CDUs) during the Inauguration weekend, was questioned about when and how he ordered MPD officers to “kettle,” or trap and arrest, protesters that day. Deville was also questioned about the unannounced deployment of chemical and projectile weapons used to “disrupt” and “disorient” the group leading up to the mass arrest of more than 230 protesters, journalists, medics, legal observers and bystanders.

In apparent violation of the MPD Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for Handling First Amendment Assemblies and Mass Demonstrations, Commander Deville admitted he failed to “identify and make contact with the group organizers” in order to determine their plans for the demonstration. On cross-examination Thursday, Deville also admitted failing to instruct MPD officers to give dispersal orders despite the SOP requiring it even for unplanned civil disturbances. Deville told the jury on Thursday that he was part of a 2003 committee that modified the SOP policies, and that he taught them to police personnel.

Commander Deville said there were at least 10 large vans full of MPD officers, many outfitted in “riot gear,” deployed in advance of the anti-capitalist, anti-fascist march that day, as well as numerous CDU officers on motorcycles and bicycles, Deville claimed an inability to get in front of the march or to arrest people on individualized probable cause.


Commander Deville repeatedly claimed that police showed “enormous restraint,” yet he approved the wanton use of chemical and projectile weapons against protesters in an area of downtown Deville defined as “the footprint of capitalism.” Body worn camera videos showed officers unloading copious amounts of pepper spray using large MK-46 dispensers, referred to by police as “Super Soakers.” Deville admitted on cross-examination Thursday that his officers deployed pepper spray even though people in the march were not “endangering public safety or security,” an SOP requirement for the use of chemical weapons. Deville also approved the use of multiple “Stinger” grenades that propel smoke, rubber pellets and pepper spray in a 50-foot radius, which were thrown into the “kettled” crowd, causing several injuries to protesters.

“Not only has MPD Commander Deville failed to show any clear threat to police or public safety in order to justify the use of chemical and projectile weapons on Inauguration Day, he has also failed to provide any evidence of unlawful behavior by the defendants on trial,” said Jude Ortiz of Defend J20 Resistance. “Instead, Deville has focused on the political ideology of protesters as ‘anarchists,’ claiming the entire group was the threat that day.”


On Thursday, Harris’s attorney Steven McCool questioned Commander Deville about Internal Affairs Division (IAD) complaints and disciplinary sanctions he received related to his bias against Jewish people, as well as gay and transgender police personnel. Despite some of these complaints being upheld and entered into his personnel file, Deville refused to admit to any bias. Many of the protesters arrested on Inauguration Day are queer and trans.


The cross-examination of Commander Deville will continue Monday morning with the government’s case set to wrap up by Wednesday. The trial could continue through Monday, December 18, when another set of seven Inauguration Day defendants are scheduled to begin their trial on misdemeanor charges.


Defend J20 Resistance is a large group of felony defendants arrested on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC and their supporters who have all agreed not to testify against each other and are working together to collectively defend themselves. is a product of their work.