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Police Complaints Board Issues Second Protest Monitoring Report

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

(Washington, DC) The Police Complaints Board (PCB), the governing body of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), today submitted a report and recommendations to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, the Council of the District of Columbia, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy L. Lanier regarding MPD’s handling of three protest events held in Washington in March and April of 2007.

Under authority given to the Board in April 2005, OPC staff members monitored the March on the Pentagon, which was held on March 17, 2007, and the Steps 4 Darfur March and a demonstration at the World Bank, both of which were held on April 14, 2007.

This monitoring effort was the agency’s second since the First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act of 2004 took effect in 2005.  In addition to giving PCB the authority to monitor police handling of protests, the Act articulated the city’s official policy on First Amendment assemblies and established specific standards of police conduct when handling protests or demonstrations.

The March 17 protest included an estimated 15,000 to 30,000 demonstrators who assembled near the Lincoln Memorial and marched to the Pentagon in Virginia to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  The April 14 Darfur march included an estimated 150 demonstrators who marched from the Sudanese Embassy to the Washington Monument to speak out against the killings in Darfur, Sudan.  Lastly, the April 14 World Bank protest included a small group of people who marched to and rallied across the street from the World Bank to protest the activities of the bank and its president, Paul Wolfowitz.

As a result of the observations by OPC’s staff, the Board concluded that MPD performed in a professional manner during all three protest events, and effectively balanced the interests of public safety with the right to free expression.  MPD’s general interaction with the public appeared cordial, helpful, and respectful, and MPD officers appeared to be in compliance with relevant provisions of the Act.  A similar finding was made by the Board in December 2005.

Based on its findings, PCB recommended that MPD continue to emphasize compliance with the Act, make itself available as a resource to federal law enforcement agencies that routinely handle protests and demonstrations, and continue to make sure that MPD officers are informed of PCB’s authority to monitor MPD’s handling of protests so that OPC staff can continue to observe future demonstrations freely.

“This is our second year of monitoring MPD’s performance during First Amendment assemblies, and we are pleased with what we’ve seen,” said Philip K. Eure, OPC’s Executive Director.  “MPD’s handling of the protests we monitored has ensured that demonstrators in the District could have their voices heard with the assistance of, and no interference from, the police.”

A total of 13 OPC employees, including many of the agency’s investigators, monitored MPD’s interactions with the participants in the protest events.  OPC employees monitored the events on foot, through MPD’s command center, and with police officials in the field.

The agency’s first protest monitoring centered on the large antiwar and anti-globalization protests held in Washington in September 2005. PCB issued its report regarding its observation of these events in December 2005.

For additional information and to view the full text of the Board’s reports or the First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act, please select one of the links below:

For additional information or questions regarding the agency’s protest monitoring, please contact OPC at (202) 727-3838.