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U.S. Policing Units Improve Policies After Floyd Protest Complaints

The American Civil Liberties Union of D.C. and the Justice Department settled four civil lawsuits brought by Black Lives Matter D.C. and protesters at Washington, D.C.'s Lafayette Square when it was violently cleared to allow President Trump to pose for a photo there, reports the Washington Post. The 2020 incident was part of the George Floyd protests that swept across the nation. Although the protest in Lafayette Square was peaceful, federal law enforcement authorities fired flash-bang shells, gas and rubber bullets into the crowd and did not give warning in accordance with established standards to protect free speech and the right to assembly. The agencies involved have made new commitments and policy changes to bolster these general standards.

The U.S. Park Police and Secret Service agreed that they would require officers to wear badges in and nameplates in public view. They also agreed to implement specific crowd control policy changes. When dispersing a crowd, the Park Police will be required to provide a safe pathway out and provide audible warnings. They will also be precluded from revoking demonstration permits absent "clear and present danger to the public safety” and will be more circumscribed in their ability to display gas masks and riot shields. The Secret Service amended its policy to include that some unlawful conduct in a crowd does not give its officers "blanket grounds" for use of force. Some claim that these moves are steps forward, while others say that federal law enforcement officers broke constitutional rules that were clearly established by 2020. Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a constitutional rights attorney, said “I just don’t think you could look at language that is a replica of orders and policies and the settlement agreement that was put into place in 2015, and claim that that is new language and a new dawn for democracy when it doesn’t move the ball forward.” Others noted that before the settlement, the federal law enforcement agencies were lagging behind many states' best practices for crowd control.


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