Police will have to adopt new polices with regards to dealing with demonstrators in Washington, DC as a settlement comes close to being finalized in a case concerning 400 protesters unlawfully arrested during a 2002 rally protesting the World Bank.
US District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has given his preliminary approval to a settlement that would award more than $2.2 million to individuals detained during a World Bank/International Monetary Fund protest more than a decade ago.
Judge Sullivan signed off on the proposed class action settlement on May 10, but attorneys representing the few hundred plaintiffs didn’t go public with his decision until Monday this week.
“Although many media pundits and politicians have suggested that the social justice movement and the free speech and assembly rights of protesters have to be constricted for the sake of security and order, this settlement disproves that myth,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which represented the plaintiffs. “There is simply no basis by which any other jurisdiction’s police department can legitimately claim it cannot enact these procedural standards that conform to fundamental constitutional requirements.”
The settlement stems from an event held nearly 13 years ago in Pershing Park on the National Mall in Washington, DC in which protesters gathered to rally against the World Bank and IMF. That demonstration ended in mass arrests after the US Park Police encircled the group and the city’s Metropolitan Police Department took individuals into custody soon after.
Previous litigation rendered those arrests null and void, and the newest ruling would provide compensation on top of the $8.25 million previously awarded to the protesters.
In addition to putting aside $2.2 million to compensate the victims, the proposed settlement establishes new “best practices” to be adopted by the US Park Police, which the PCJF calls “significant and substantive reforms” with regards to the agency’s policies and procedures in handling First Amendment activities, as well as events where multiple police departments may be involved.