October 3, 2022

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Justice Department Announces Civil Settlement in Lafayette Square Cases

11 min read

Today, the Department of Justice announced that it has reached an agreement to settle claims in four civil cases arising from the June 1, 2020, law enforcement response to racial justice demonstrations in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.

As part of the settlement, the United States Park Police (USPP) and the United States Secret Service (USSS) agreed to update and clarify their policies governing demonstrations, and to implement the policy changes within 30 days of today’s settlement. The plaintiffs, Black Lives Matter D.C. and individuals who attended the protests, agreed to dismiss their claims for equitable relief against the United States.

Changes to the agency’s policies include more specific requirements for visible identification of officers, limits on the use of non-lethal force and procedures to facilitate safe crowd dispersal. 

“The federal government is committed to the highest standards for protecting civil rights and civil liberties in any federal law enforcement response to public demonstrations,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “These changes to agency policies for protest responses will strengthen our commitment to protecting and respecting constitutionally protected rights.”

“From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the White House sidewalk, the National Park Service takes immense pride in caring for some of our nation’s most storied civic spaces,” said Director Chuck Sams of the National Park Service. “We hope this updated policy can serve as a model for others to uphold civil rights and facilitate safe demonstrations. It is good for the public and good for our officers. The United States Park Police is committed to ensuring people can gather safely to express our most fundamental and cherished right to free speech. This updated policy is designed to be accessible and understandable to both our officers and the public, further strengthening that commitment.”

“We appreciate the Park Police and Secret Service for their efforts to constantly review and revisit their law enforcement policies to evolve and protect those that seek to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia. “These revisions to our law enforcement partners’ policies will further protect those rights.” 

USPP’s updated policy, which it released today, will:

  • Require officers to wear fully visible badges and nameplates including on outerwear, tactical gear and helmets;
  • Implement guidelines concerning the use of non-lethal force, including de-escalation tactics;
  • Adopt clearer procedures for issuing dispersal warnings and permitting demonstrators to disperse; and
  • Strengthen pre-event planning and on-site coordination between USPP and other law enforcement agencies. 

Within the next 30 days, the USSS will:

  • Amend its policies to provide that the fact that some demonstrators have engaged in unlawful conduct does not ordinarily provide blanket grounds for use of force, crowd dispersal or declaration of unlawful assembly.

This case was handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

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