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6 months ago
Review faults Washington police handling of inaugural protests
February 28, 2017 / 3:14 AM / 6 months ago

Review faults Washington police handling of inaugural protests

Protesters demonstrating against U.S. President Donald Trump take cover as they are hit by pepper spray by police on the sidelines of the inauguration in Washington, DC, U.S., January 20, 2017.Adrees Latif/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington police who clashed with protesters at President Donald Trump's inauguration potentially breached department guidelines and the rights of demonstrators, including through use of pepper spray, a civilian review board said on Monday.

Officers from Washington's Metropolitan Police Department repeatedly used pepper spray and stun grenades at the Jan. 20 inauguration without warning protesters or ordering them to disperse, as procedures called for, the report by the District of Columbia's Police Complaints Board said.

Pepper spray was "deployed to move the crowd, without warnings, and in many instances it was used on people who were simply standing in the wrong place," the 16-page report said.

In some cases, Washington police lacked clear coordination with thousands of officers from other agencies deployed at the inauguration, and surrounded and arrested protesters without probable cause, it said.

A police spokesman said in an email that officers had acted responsibly during the unrest and the board's suggestions would be taken into account.

Trump's inauguration followed a turbulent election campaign and was marred by street clashes between police and rock- and bottle-throwing black-clad activists just a few blocks from the White House.

A police officer falls to the ground as another shoots pepper spray at protesters demonstrating against U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the inauguration in Washington, D.C. January 20, 2017.Adrees Latif/File Photo

Windows of businesses were smashed, a limousine and trash cans were set ablaze, and numerous vehicles damaged. Six police officers were injured and more than 200 people were charged with rioting.

Charges have been dropped against at least nine people, including four journalists who police swept up along with protesters.

Although the report said police interaction with people at the inauguration was largely positive, the five-member board said officers may have violated a city law on protests that includes requirements for limiting arrests and giving demonstrators a clear way to disperse.

The board recommended a more thorough investigation by an independent consultant and updating police procedures for dealing with protests.

In a statement, Mayor Muriel Bowser said police had acted appropriately in quelling the unrest.

"Our police officers acted properly and professionally in stopping violence, protecting bystanders and arresting violent perpetrators who were armed with hammers, metal pipes and other weaponry," she said.

Editing by Peter Cooney

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