Journalists and activists have sued Washington, D.C., and 170 police officers over alleged sexual abuse after they were arrested during protests against the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
The plaintiffs — photojournalist Shay Horse, legal observer Judah Ariel and demonstrators Elizabeth Legesse and Milo Gonzalez — claim officers violated their civil rights after rounding them up with hundreds of other activists and reporters, reported Think Progress.
The suit filed by the ACLU of D.C. seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the district, police chief Peter Newsham and two unnamed officers over their Jan. 20 arrests and their treatment in a confined “kettle” area set up on a city street corner.
According to the complaint, an officer ordered five of the detainees to take off their pants before grabbing their testicles and then inserting a finger into their anuses as other officers laughed.
“I felt like they were using molestation and rape as punishment,” said Horse, one of six journalists arrested during the demonstrations. “They used those tactics to inflict pain and misery on people who are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. It felt like they were trying to break me and the others — break us so that even if the charges didn’t stick, that night would be our punishment.”
Police said in a statement that the officers’ conduct would be investigated, but the department defended the Inauguration Day arrests as lawful.
An attorney for the ACLU said he wasn’t confident an internal investigation would deal appropriately with the officers’ actions, which he said appeared to be highly coordinated.
The U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., declined comment to Think Progress on how the lawsuit might affect the 202 felony prosecutions the office is pursuing against demonstrators arrested during Trump’s inauguration.
Correction: A previous version of this story reported that three police officers were listed as plaintiffs in the complaint.