News & Politics

DC Settles Cases From Protest Arrests During Trump’s 2017 Inauguration

Two lawsuits asserted that DC police erred when they made mass arrests and kettled people.

Photograph by Evy Mages

The District of Columbia will pay $1.6 million to settle two cases that stemmed from DC police’s arrest of hundreds of demonstrators during Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration. The protesters, some of whom were gathered under the umbrella group Disrupt J20, planned to disrupt the inauguration and adjacent events, such as the “DeploraBall.” Some protesters damaged property and six cops were injured. But the civil cases, brought by ACLU of the District of Columbia and DC attorney Jeffrey Light, had argued that DC cops “engaged in or supervised constitutional violations including mass arrests of demonstrators without probable cause, unlawful conditions of confinement for detainees, and/or use of excessive force,” the ACLU says. The police unlawfully “kettled” protesters, the lawsuits stated—the same controversial crowd-control tactic they used on Swann Street, Northwest, last summer.

The federal government had tried some of the inauguration protesters under the interesting theory that by protesting, they provided cover for people who committed vandalism. It didn’t work, and the government dropped charges against the remaining protesters the next year.

As part of the DC settlement, the ACLU says, the DC Office of the Attorney General won’t oppose motions to expunge records for plaintiffs, and the DC police “will issue a formal directive modifying the procedures for processing of arrestees to avoid subjecting them to long waits for basic necessities such as access to restrooms and water.”

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.