On Inauguration Day, Washington, D.C. police officers arrested over 200 people. While many of those arrested were violent Antifa members who were breaking windows and causing damage to property, D.C. police also arrested many non-violent reporters, volunteer legal observers, and peaceful protesters whose only crime was being in the wrong place when the violence broke out.
According to Scott Michelman, a representative from the ACLU, the mass arrests of innocent bystanders by the Metropolitan Police Department would have been enough to file a legal suit against D.C. police. Michelman said:
When there are groups of people who protest only peacefully, demonstrations that go off without a hitch, MPD does tend to handle those pretty well. They tend to be prepared and respectful, and we commend them for that. The problem is when there’s a little bit of lawbreaking at a mostly peaceful demonstration, the response from MPD is massive, it’s excessive, it’s unjustified, and it’s unconstitutional. That’s what we saw on January 20.
One would assume that irresponsibly arresting innocent people is where the allegations against the MPD end. But it is what happened to those innocent bystanders after they were in police custody that is truly horrifying.
Independent photojournalist Shay Horse was one of the people who were wrongfully arrested that day. Horse describes police officers ordering himself and others in his group to take their pants off and subsequently grabbing them by the testicles and inserting their fingers into the anuses of the victims while laughing and joking about it to other officers. Horse said:
I felt like they were using molestation and rape as punishment. They used those tactics to inflict pain and misery on people who are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. It felt like they were trying to break me and the others — break us so that even if the charges didn’t stick, that night would be our punishment.
The American Civil Liberties Union, along with four plaintiffs filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the MPD, the city, the police chief, and other officers who were involved in the rape and molestation of innocent citizens. The MPD has come forward with a statement saying that they will fully investigate all allegations of misconduct—a statement that the ACLU’s Scott Michelman finds extremely dubious.