WASHINGTON, D.C. — Police in Washington, D.C., actedimproperly last September when they arrested 400 International Monetary Fundprotesters, including members of the student media, according to an internalinvestigation report released last week.The report, prepared by thecity’s Office of Professional Responsibility, found that Washington policeinappropriately cordoned off sections of Pershing Park — trapping bothprotesters and passersby — and arresting them on charges of failure toobey an officer.Several student journalists, including four from GeorgeWashington University who filed suit against the police department, werearrested during the protest. In the suit, they and three observers from the GWUlaw school, contend that they were not warned before they werearrested.Warnings are a critical component of the failure to obey anofficer law, as they give citizens the opportunity to comply with the officer.The internal report notes that citizens should have received at least twowarnings prior to arrest.“There is no conclusive evidence tosupport the fact that demonstrators were warned before entering the park,”according to the report. “Chief Newsham [the officer in charge of handlingthe protests] explained that warnings were not given, nor were any requiredbecause in his mind, the demonstrators had already violated the law and weretechnically already under arrest.”Because not everyone in the parkviolated the law, the arrests were inappropriate, the report said. The arrestsmay have captured numerous people, including journalists, who were notprotesting, but were still in the park. “[I]t is probably thatthere were numerous persons inside the park that had arrived there legally, andwere not engaged in any type of disorder,” the report said. “Thelack of warning carries a greater significance to that particular group ofpeople because they were not warned about the possibility of being arrested, norwere they engaged in any law violating conduct.”In a memo fromChief of Police Charles Ramsey to Mayor Anthony Williams, attached as anaddendum to the report, Ramsey noted that though the officers acted in goodfaith, they did so in violation of the department’s rules on handlingprotests.“I have counseled each member of the command staff toensure that these procedural errors are not repeated in future large-scaleevents where mass arrests may occur,” Ramsey wrote. “I believe thatunder the circumstances in which the decision to arrest was made, this is asufficient level of corrective action.”The mayor’s officedisclosed the report after U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordered itsrelease.Four lawsuits surrounding the IMF arrest are pending inSullivan’s court.
Read previous coverage:
- George Washington journalism, law students sue over arrests News Flash, 10/22/02
- D.C. drops charges against photographer arrested at protests News Flash, 10/18/02
- Account from IMF protests points to police bias against student media News Flash, 10/2/02
- Six student journalists arrested while covering IMF protests News Flash, 10/1/02