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Partial Settlement Awarded to Peaceful Protesters Tear-Gassed at Lafayette Square

April 13, 2022

The Biden Administration announced changes to United States Park Police and Secret Service policies in an effort to settle some of the legal claims by civil rights protesters who were attacked by federal troops in front of the White House in 2020 as they were demonstrating nonviolently against police brutality. These changes are part of a settlement agreement that resolves portions of four separate lawsuits filed by Black Lives Matter DC and 13 individual protestors against the Trump Administration and others for wrongfully attacking the protestors at Lafayette Square. The changes made to the Park Police and Secret Service policies will further protect the right to demonstrate at the park and increase protection for demonstrators against unnecessary force.

“These policy changes represent major steps to enhance protection for freedom of expression in the future,” said Arnold & Porter senior pro bono counsel John A. Freedman. “They represent significant revisions to the rules of engagement that govern how the Park Police and Secret Service interact with peaceful demonstrations that will both reduce risk that protestors are injured and strengthen measures to hold officers who utilize excessive force accountable,” said Freedman, who represented some of the protesters.

In June 2020, hundreds of protestors advocating for Black Lives Matter were attacked by United States Park Police and other federal and local enforcement officers using chemical irritants, rubber bullets, smoke bombs, and flash grenades. A baton charge was also used against the protestors. Following the attack, Black Lives Matter DC and 13 of the protestors filed the lawsuits against the Trump Administration.

The lawsuit also includes claims against Attorney General William Barr, the Park Police incident commander Mark Adamchik, along with line-level officers from the Park Police and Arlington Police Department, and Metropolitan Police Department officers.

The Arnold & Porter pro bono team was led by senior pro bono counsel John A. Freedman and also included counsel David Kouba and senior associate Sonia Tabriz.