On April 21, 2003, plaintiffs, a group of protestors detained and interrogated by the D.C. Metropolitan Police, filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the D.C. Police and the FBI in the United States Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs, represented by several public interest organizations, asked the court for compensatory, injunctive, and declaratory relief, claiming violations of their First and Fourth Amendment rights, as well as alleging a civil conspiracy to violate their rights. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that they were targeted for wearing black clothing (which the D.C. Police believed was linked with the belief in ‘Anarchy’), and detained and arrested without probable cause.
The protest that was the subject of the suit was against the war in Afghanistan and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank; it took place in D.C. on April 20, 2002. The plaintiffs had returned to a parking garage in which they had parked and had access to the internet. While they were congregated and eating, D.C. Metro Police approached them with drawn guns. The protestors were dressed in black. They were accosted and insulted by the police, then handcuffed and taken into custody. Their vehicle and personal belongings were searched without consent.
Several of the plaintiffs were interrogated in video interviews, recordings of which were later disseminated within the FBI. The plaintiffs were interrogated about the nature of the political activities and associations, their travel arrangements and housing accommodations in D.C. They were released, but later charged with Unlawful Entry into the parking garage (in which the plaintiffs had parked their vehicle). The charges were dismissed at the D.C. Superior Court for being baseless.
The plaintiffs claimed in their lawsuit, filed a year later, that they were arrested in violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and association, and that they were arrested as part of an illegal intelligence-gathering operation designed to monitor protected First-Amendment activities of select political organizations, of which the plaintiffs were presumed to be a part.
On September 11, 2007, the Court (Judge John Bates) partially granted the FBI’s motion for summary judgment. The Court found that the plaintiffs were not entitled to declaratory or injunctive relief in regards to the dissemination of arrest records and interrogation video because they could not demonstrate that the harm was continuing. The compensatory action was maintained against the FBI and the entire action against the MPD was allowed to continue.
On March 31, 2009, the Court ruled on MPD’s motion for summary judgment. The Court found that most of the individual officer defendants were entitled to qualified immunity, but that the District of Columbia’s policy of targeting black-clad protestors for enforcement created a genuine issue of material fact as to a valid constitutional claim.
On November 13, 2009, the plaintiffs and defendants made a joint motion to dismiss the case with prejudice following a Settlement Agreement. The Agreement awarded the plaintiffs $450,000 to be divided amongst them. This amount was inclusive of attorney’s fees.
The case was closed on November 16, 2009.Blase Kearney - 06/25/2012