The federal government will pay $2.2 million to settle claims that U.S. Park Police violated the rights of protesters and bystanders during mass arrests more than a decade ago in downtown Washington, D.C., Legal Times reports. The Park Police also agreed to revise its procedures for responding to large demonstrations. The settlement, which is subject to final approval by a federal judge, closes one of several lawsuits filed against federal and local law enforcement by protesters and bystanders arrested during 2002 demonstrations in D.C.'s Pershing Park against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
As part of the agreement, the Park Police will take additional steps to make sure protesters receive sufficient warning and an opportunity to disperse before officers make mass arrests. The new language also restricts when officers can encircle a group of demonstrators. Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice, which represented the protesters, said she hoped the settlement would send a message to other law enforcement agencies about the best—and most constitutionally sound—way to respond to mass demonstrations. “If the feds can do this in light of their security obligations, there is no excuse for any police department around the country to not conform their conduct to these constitutional requirements of fair notice and warning,” Verheyden-Hilliard said.