Letter To The DC Metropolitan Police Department
Above Photo: LSW2020/Flickr
May 9, 2019
Dear Mr. Ryan and Chief Newsham,
We have received your response today to our letter sent over a week ago on May 1.
It is not credible to disclaim knowledge of the extensive instances of misconduct over the past week at the Venezuelan Embassy. Repeatedly, the MPD has allowed physical assaults, threats and menacing by right-wing violent thugs against peaceful persons, has allowed them to incommode and block passage on the public sidewalks, has allowed their use of eye-damaging high beam lights and strobes to be shined into peace activists’ eyes at close proximity, and their use of high volume blast sirens and horns placed directly against the ears of peace activists. We presume that the MPD has properly activated body worn cameras and that there has been no spoliation of evidence of these assaults in your possession.
In some instances these actions have been accompanied by appalling racist, misogynist, homophobic and transphobic slurs and threats as well, rendering these criminal actions additionally unlawful as bias crimes. Nor has the MPD taken action to arrest persons who have stolen and damaged food and other property of peace activists even while such criminal actions have occurred directly in front of them.
Indeed, just an hour ago, MPD officers allowed and facilitated a mob surge against, and breaking up of, a lawful, peaceful First Amendment-protected press conference being held by peace activists on public space under MPD jurisdiction near the Embassy. The MPD officers present took no action to stop persons from assaulting, menacing and disrupting the lawful event, to separate them, or to arrest them.
In the immediate, and specifically we request you please advise today:
1) will the MPD stop allowing the physical blockage of passage on the sidewalk in front of the embassy including that blocking which is politically targeted against peace activists who seek to peaceably walk along the public sidewalk, who seek to access public space for First Amendment expression, and/or who seek the right of public passage on public space for the provision of food to persons lawfully present inside the building?
If not, we understand that the MPD is explicitly authorizing the use of this type of blockade and incommoding of any public sidewalk in front of all embassies or other buildings in the District of Columbia, and going forward will not arrest persons who engage in such similar blockage regardless of the target of the blockade.
2) will the MPD stop allowing and facilitating the use of high-beam lights, scuba lights, and strobes applied and directed into persons eyes which can cause physical damage?
If not, we understand that the MPD is explicitly authorizing the use of these non lethal weapons as lawful in the District of Columbia to target the eyes and retinas of persons, including officers, officials or any person present in D.C., and that as practice and policy no one will be arrested for such use regardless of who the target is. In the case of targeted strobe lighting, of course, the weapons may have lethal effect, causing seizure.
3) will the MPD stop allowing and facilitating the use of hearing-damaging high decibel sirens and horns placed against and directed into eardrums of peace activists?
If not, we understand that the MPD is explicitly authorizing the use of these non lethal weapons as lawful in the District of Columbia to target the ears and hearing of persons, including police officers, officials or any person present in D.C., and that as practice and policy no one will be arrested for such use regardless of who the target is.
Finally, we are cc’ing Michael Tobin on this email to learn whether the Office of Police Complaints has sent observers during the many nights and days that these assaults have been taking place over the past ten days. We are not aware of any, and if not, we request that it does so.
We appreciate your prompt response,
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard Executive Director Partnership for Civil Justice Fund 617 Florida Avenue NW Washington, DC 20001