Prosecutors are seeking a protective order in the trial of 217 protesters apprehended in mass arrests during Inauguration Day protests in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 20. The order would prohibit the defendants from sharing evidence provided to them by prosecutors with the media. A motion for the protective order was filed this month after The Indypendent, on June 19, published previously unreleased police body camera footage showing members of the Metropolitan Police Department brutalizing demonstrators.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. took notice of the video. Unicorn Riot reports from the pretrial hearings, currently in the discovery phase:
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff expressed anger in court after body camera footage showing police attacking demonstrators appeared in an article by the The Indypendent.
Kerkoff introduced a motion to forbid defendants from sharing any discovery video under threat of being held in contempt of court, a measure which could prevent evidence from being gathered for future civil suits. The motion was not ruled on but is expected to be granted or denied by Judge [Lynn] Leibovitz at a hearing next month.
The Indypendent did not reveal the source of the video and has no plans to do so. Aside from the defendants and their advocates, members of the Metropolitan Police and prosecuting attorneys also had access to the evidence.
The defendants are facing up to 75 years in prison on charges of rioting and conspiracy to riot based on evidence as thin as the color of the clothing they wore. They are not slated to stand before a jury until March of 2018.
Reached by phone, veteran civil rights attorney Martin Stolar called the motion for the protective order “pure intimidation,” noting that if there was no previous gag in place than anybody was free to share the video. In order to support the order, prosecutors have to show necessity. “The only necessity would be that [publicizing the evidence] interferes with their ability to get a fair jury,” Stolar said. “Since the trial is about a year away, I don’t see how that would be a problem.”
The fact that Kerkoff is resorting to such tactics “tells me she’s got no case,” Stolar added.
Watch the video prosecutors don’t want you to see:
Also this month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police for deploying excessive force, making false arrests and for sexually abusing detainees apprehended during the anti-Trump protests on January 20.
“A group of officers, maybe a dozen, lined up five male detainees, including myself,” said Shay Horse, a photojournalist and one of the four plaintiffs in the suit, reading a statement at ACLU offices in Washington. “An officer told us to drop our pants. An officer went down the row, telling each of us not to flinch as he grabbed our balls and yanked on them and then stuck his finger up each of our anuses and wiggled it around. I felt like they were using molestation and rape as punishment.”
Appearing on Democracy Now! on Wednesday ACLU attorney Scott Michelman elaborated:
[The Metropolitan Police] kettled — that is, set up a mass detention for — over 200 people who were not selected because they had engaged in wrongdoing, but because they were on the street where the police had decided to set up the kettle. In effect, they were rounded up and detained for their proximity and perhaps their agreement of the ideas of a handful of people who were engaging in lawbreaking, which is nothing more than guilt by association.
Then, in custody, the detainees were deprived of food, water and access to toilets for many hours. And finally, and perhaps most disturbingly, a number of the detainees, including two of our clients, were subjected to manual rectal probing by an officer putting his finger up their anuses, grabbing on their testicles.
Michelman added that he has heard additional reports from detainees of sexual abuse on the part of the Metropolitan Police.
Should Judge Leibovitz rule in favor of the protective order in July, it will throw an even greater shadow over mass arrests and a trial civil liberties advocates already worry is meant to discourage future dissent.
Photo (top): Anti-Trump protesters conducting a sit-in on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20. Credit: Peter Rugh.