Oct. 30, 2017 – New, previously undisclosed records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the DC Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (DC NLG) and Defending Rights & Dissent (DRAD) details the types, quantities, manufacturers and costs of munitions used against protesters on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017.
From an estimated security budget of $200 million for the inauguration weekend, the DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) spent more than $300,000 to militarize its police force. MPD purchased equipment such as 1,000 gas masks ($171,610) and 500 batons ($38,935), and spent more than $42,000 on “less-lethal” munitions, including 140 Stinger Rubber Ball Grenades, 140 Rubber Baton Rounds, 140 Stinger Rounds, and 20 smoke bombs.
The recent DC NLG disclosures complement FOIA records published earlier this month by Democracy in Crisis and the Real News Network. According to these records, MPD deployed weapons on at least 191 occasions on Inauguration Day, including the use of 74 Stinger Grenades—a weapon that indiscriminately projects rubber balls and metal shards in a 50-foot radius.
MPD also used copious amounts of chemical agents like pepper spray and tear gas against protesters, journalists, medics, legal observers, and bystanders alike, none of which was detailed in the documents recently obtained by DC NLG and DRAD. According to the Real News Network, police used pepper spray both before and after more than 200 people were trapped and detained by MPD. Most of the people attacked by police were later arrested and indicted on at least eight felonies each.
“Unfortunately, it’s not surprising to see these kinds of weapons purchased in advance of major political demonstrations—this is the new normal,” said Maggie Ellinger-Locke of the DC NLG and the attorney who filed the FOIA request. “However, the wanton police violence on Inauguration Day which only helped to escalate tension in the streets is inexcusable and should be condemned, not tolerated.”
MPD denied requests for public records related to the use of force on January 20, claiming that the “production of such records would interfere with enforcement proceedings.” DC NLG and DRAD are still pursing the type and number of weapons deployed that day and any contracts or agreements that MPD had with other DC government agencies related to the procurement of munitions as part of the same FOIA request.
The recent records disclosure comes as DC’s Office of Police Complaints initiated an independent investigation earlier this month into MPD misconduct on January 20. Despite lingering questions around the legality of the arrests that day and the extent of police misconduct, criminal trials for Inauguration Day defendants are scheduled to begin on November 15 in DC Superior Court.
The National Lawyers Guild was formed in 1937 as the nation’s first racially integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.
Defending Rights & Dissent is a national civil liberties organization that works to fulfill the promise of the Bill of Rights for everyone, with a special emphasis on protecting political expression in order to create a participatory democracy.