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Posted at 05:20 PM ET, 08/01/2011

District settles lawsuit brought in 2005 mass arrest of demonstrators

The D.C. government on Monday settled a class-action lawsuit brought by dozens of protesters arrested during demonstrations on the night of George W. Bush’s second presidential inauguration, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The suit was brought by the ACLU on behalf of about 70 people who were arrested by D.C. police on Jan. 20, 2005, in Adams Morgan.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, then in charge of the department’s special operations division, ordered the arrests after some demonstrators broke windows, threw rocks, damaged cars and spray-painted buildings.

A federal judge in 2008 found that the arrests were unlawful because police had not first given demonstrators a chance to disperse and police could not tie individual demonstrators to crimes. That ruling was overturned on appeal, and the two sides were gearing up for trial when a preliminary settlement was reached in February.

In the agreement, which was finalized and approved by U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle on Monday, the District agreed to pay the protesters $250,000, an amount that includes legal fees.

According to the ACLU, the D.C. government acknowledged that “while it believes the group as a whole engaged in unlawful conduct, the District cannot link any individual Class Member to any specific acts of property damage or any similar illegal acts.”

“We are please that District of Columbia agreed to settle this case,” said Arthur Spitzer of the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital.

Ariel Waldman, senior counsel to the D.C. Attorney General, said the city agreed to the settlement to avoid additional expense.

“We are pleased that the Court following a fairness hearing approved the settlement in this matter, which includes plaintiffs’ express acknowledgment that Chief Lanier (in her position at that time) and the rest of the MPD officers on the matter were justified in making the arrests to stop the vandalism and destruction of property that were occurring as part of the rioting,” he wrote in an email. “The District settled to avoid the unnecessary burdens and expense associated with litigating a matter that occurred back in early 2005 and should be put behind all of us, as it now can be.”

[This post has been updated.]

By  |  05:20 PM ET, 08/01/2011

Categories:  Del Quentin Wilber, From the Courthouse, The District

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