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Civil liberties protection is better than an $8 million settlement

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Following on the heels of a multimillion-dollar settlement over unlawful detentions during the April 2000 IMF/Word Bank protests, the District of Columbia has reached an $8 million settlement over an unlawful roundup and detention of demonstrators in Pershing Park in September 2002.

As a Washington Post article describes the Pershing Park scandal: "On the morning of Sept. 27, 2002, D.C. police monitoring protests at the IMF/World Bank meetings swept into Pershing Park and, without warning or cause, rounded up hundreds of people. Peaceful protesters, innocent bystanders and others hurrying to work were unlawfully arrested, hogtied by police and confined for hours — their constitutional rights violated. If that weren’t bad enough, it now appears that efforts to get a full accounting and redress for those events are being thwarted by what a federal judge characterized as intolerable conduct by city lawyers. These troubling allegations cannot go unanswered."

Back to this week’s Pershing Park settlement with the D.C. government, the Washington City Paper reports that in addition to the monetary part of the settlement:

"The settlement stipulates that D.C. Police Department and the Office of the Attorney General must take steps to insure that similar discovery abuses do not happen in the future. The District has agreed to several such steps:

"*The D.C. Police Department and the Office of the Attorney General centrally log and index all materials connected in future mass demonstration cases.

"*The District must fund a document management computer system that would log evidence.

"*The District must safeguard and index and maintain D.C. Police Department command center documents and other essential materials such as the running resume, radio dispatches, and video evidence.

"*Every six months for three years, the District must issue reports on its progress in these areas to Partnership for Civil Justice attorneys.

"*The District must expunge the records for the more 1,000 people arrested in the Pershing Park and Becker cases."

Congratulations and thanks to the lawyers at Partnership for Civil Justice in D.C., for having achieved this victory.