News by VICE

DC cops sued for alleged cavity searches on antifa protesters

by Alexa Liautaud
Jun 22 2017, 9:14am

Pepper sprayed, deprived of food and water, intrusively probed, and handcuffed so tightly to the point of numbness and bleeding — these are just some of the abuses several people allegedly endured at the hands of the D.C. police in the aftermath of the Inauguration Day protests in January.

After protests surrounding Trump’s election got rowdy, the D.C. police rounded up protesters, charging over 200 people in connection with rioting, vandalism and destruction of property.

Now, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Washington D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department on behalf of a photojournalist, two protesters, and a legal observer, not only claiming that the four of them were innocent, but that the officers used excessive force against them.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday evening, the ACLU said the plaintiffs were “held for hours without food, water, or access to toilets; handcuffed detainees so tightly as to cause injury or loss of feeling; and subjected some detainees to manual rectal probing.”

The lawsuit delves into graphic detail about the treatment of the photojournalist Shay Horse and the consequences he suffered.

“As a result of Defendants’ manual rectal probing and grabbing of his testicles, Mr. Horse suffered humiliation, anxiety and emotional distress. He feels as if he has been raped,” the lawsuit alleges.

“The MPD’s extreme tactics against members of the public, including journalists, demonstrators, and observers, were unjustifiable and unconstitutional,” Scott Michelman, a lawyer for the ACLU said in a statement. “People from all over the country come to the nation’s capital to exercise their constitutional right to protest. MPD’s wanton and vindictive conduct on January 20 chills free speech, which is a vital part of our democracy.”

Back in January, the Police Department appeared to stand behind by its actions. MPD Chief Peter Newsham told a local radio station WTOP that he was “proud” of the way his officers responded.

“[A]ll the police officers were outstanding in the judgment that they used,” said Newsham. “They used the least amount of force necessary to bring those folks safely and respectfully into custody. I couldn’t be more proud of the way this department responded.”

The Department took a different tone on Wednesday, saying it was “fully investigating” the claims against the officers.

“As with any pending criminal or civil matter, we will continue to support and respect the formal legal process. Moreover, all instances of use of force by officers and allegations of misconduct will be fully investigated,” the department said in a statement.

In February, the Office of Police Complaints, an independent government agency, released a report about MPD’s actions on Inauguration Day and called for further investigation.

Cover: Police and demonstrators clash in downtown Washington following the inauguration of President Donald Trump on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Stephen J. Boitano/LightRocket via Getty Images)