Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

$13 Million Settlement in DC Mass Arrest of Protestors

by David M. Reutter

The District of Columbia agreed to pay $13,302,500 to settle a class-action lawsuit related to the illegal arrest of 680 people. Those people were arrested on April 15, 2000 in connection with the protest against the Prison Industrial Complex during the International Monetary Fund-World Bank demonstrations.

The arrestees were engaged in a “fluid” and “fragmented” “snake march” that took place over the course of hours through ten blocks and ended in a major urban thoroughfare during rush hour. A police line stopped the march at approximately 20th and K Streets, NW and another police line was placed behind a segment of the march at approximately 20th and I Streets, NW.

Persons were not allowed to leave the area within the police lines and were arrested. Those arrested included demonstrators, bystanders, tourists, journalists, legal observers and parents and their minor children.

The lead plaintiff, Benjamin Becker, was 16. He came with his father, Brian Becker, to protest “against the broad, neoliberal, globalization agenda.” Brian Becker, an organizer of the protest, was left in a stress position of having his right hand tied with a flex cuff to his left foot. He refused to pay a fine and was the only demonstrator arrested that day who went to trial. He was acquitted of disorderly conduct and failure to obey.

In recommending summary judgment be granted to the class, the magistrate judge said it was “nothing short of ludicrous” to suggest there was particularized probable cause that each of the cordoned off arrestees were among those demonstrators observed by Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Lt. Jeffrey Herold to have committed wrongs.

The 14 class protestors will each receive $50,000 under the settlement. The fund for the remaining class members is $9,180,000. It is to be distributed among the class, limiting the total award to $18,000. An administration fund of $150,000 is to be established, and the attorneys will receive $3,272,500 for over eight years of work.

The settlement also requires training for MPD officers in handling First Amendment assemblies and mass demonstrations. It also requires an order to expunge all arrest records of the class, allowing them to claim they were never arrested in the incident.

The lawsuit also involved claims of eight other individual plaintiffs related to arrests at different times/locations of the mass arrest. PLN will report any settlement on those claims. The settlement for the class was reached on January 8, 2010. See: Becker v. District of Columbia, USDC, (D. Columbia), Case No. 01-cv-00811.

Additional source: Associated Press

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Becker v. District of Columbia