- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2005

Four hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars plus some handsome lawyers’ fees, and a crippling of police crowd-control tactics: That’s the price D.C. taxpayers will pay for police incompetence in arresting demonstrators on Sept. 27, 2002. The settlement, announced this week, is a cave-in to far-left activists. It’s great news for those bent on bringing Seattle-style chaos to the nation’s capital, but very bad news for the rest of us who value public safety.

On that September day, in the midst of an anti-World Bank protest downtown, police observed protesters flipping over newspaper stands near Pershing Park in Northwest and a fleet of bicycler-protesters crowding streets and sidewalks. The protesters were moving illegally without a permit. When they ignored orders to get off the road, police corralled about 400 of them in the park and arrested them for failure to obey an officer. But officers apparently failed to announce their intent to arrest clearly, so there were some non-protesters among the arrested. An internal police memo on the incident said the judgment to arrest the protesters was “made in good faith,” but that the lack of warning was problematic, as were the arrests of the uninvolved.

Not all the plaintiffs who won the $425,000 were innocent bystanders. One of them was Adam Eidinger, a career activist with a history of protest-related misdemeanors. You might remember him as the man Charlie Brotman elbowed off stage at the Washington Nationals’ team-naming ceremony at Union Station in November.

The settlement’s terms aren’t just about money, though. They also stymie police strategy. They give carte blanche to protesters to march without a permit. The protest-permit rule was always spottily enforced, but now law enforcers will have little or no notice of where crowds will appear. Violence and disorder — twin goals of terrorists — are likelier than ever.

The D.C. Council is compounding the problem. Last fall, it voted 12?1 for a bill that purportedly protects “First Amendment assemblies” but in reality will serve to curtail police surveillance of potentially violent groups. The only dissenter was Harold Brazil, who, incidentally, has been voted out of office. Explaining his no-vote to us yesterday, Mr. Brazil said the bill could lead to disaster. “This bill handcuffs the police’s ability to deal with demonstrations. You don’t need to do that to the police in a crisis situation,” he said. He also called it “a good way to stop development” in downtown Washington.

The bill will reach Mayor Tony Williams’ desk shortly. We urge him against signing it. The police are already having trouble watching violent protesters. The legislation is yet another capitulation to the violent left that cares little about public safety or property.

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