Legal observer Judah Ariel, protesters Milo Gonzalez and Elizabeth Legesse and photojournalist Shay Horse say that DC’s Metropolitan Police rounded them up with more than 200 other reporters and demonstrators and violated their civil rights.
According to the lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of DC, an MPD officer directed five of the detainees to remove their clothing and proceeded to grab their testicles and insert his finger into their anuses, much to the amusement of other officers who laughed at the invasive search.
"I felt like they were using molestation and rape as punishment," Horse said. "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," according to ThinkProgress.
The Metropolitan Police defended the arrests as lawful, but said there would be an investigation into the officer’s behaviour.
DC ACLU lawyer Scott Michelman, the filing attorney for the suit, told Radio Sputnik’s By Any Means Necessary that laws were broken during the Inauguration Day protests, with small groups of people knocking over trash cans and breaking windows, but that the plaintiffs and hundreds of others were arrested for being near the vandalism, rather than actually taking part in it.
Michelman said police used an array of weapons against people at the demonstrations, including concussion grenades, flash bang grenades, pepper spray and even a Long Range Acoustic Device or "LRAD," a sonic weapon often deployed by police as a means of crowd control.
Law enforcement "Moved with excessive and aggressive force to confront not only people who were breaking laws but anyone who was anywhere near that activity at that time," he said.
Michelman added that although Washington has had issues in the past with police abusing protesters, these arrests might have been intended as a warning from new DC Police Chief Peter Newsham that mass protests are not welcome in the nation's capital.
"With DC being the center of the nation’s government, this is where people should be freest to express their beliefs, their opposition, their dissent, their concerns. And the MPD’s reaction on January 20 sends the message, 'We’re not going to tolerate that here,'" Michelman said.
The complaint seeks punitive and compensatory damages against Newsham and two other unnamed police officers.