City Desk

Pershing Park Case: Patterson Hopes District Has Learned Its Lesson

When news broke yesterday that a D.C. Police Detective had come forward to dispute former Chief Charles Ramsey's assertion that he did not order the arrests in Pershing Park in 2002, I immediately thought of Kathy Patterson.

Few fought harder to get at the truth of what led to Pershing Park than the former D.C. councilmember. Seven years later, Det. Paul Hustler comes forward to say out loud what a lot of people knew: Ramsey was directly responsible for Pershing Park. What did Patterson think?

Patterson responded to Hustler's affidavit with an e-mail. "I'd like to see the District settle," she wrote. "I'd like to have some assurance of lessons learned."

Patterson went on to write that Hustler isn't the only cop who has come forward with a critique of the Pershing Park mass arrests.

She wrote:

"In the course of our investigation of the wrongful arrests in 2002 and the preemptive actions in 2000 we learned about a lot of things done wrong.  But we also identified quite a few MPD officers and officials who tried to do the the right thing — who tried to do their jobs correctly, respecting the rights of DC residents. We also reviewed the after action reports by several officials who risked their own careers by raising concerns with the actions of MPD leaders in and around Pershing Park. We highlighted the internal investigative report, and the fact that the original report was critical of MPD actions — before it was sanitized by the leadership, a step that violated MPD policies and best practices on internal reviews. We obviously knew of Chief Ramsey's role in the arrests based on our depositions and his own testimony so I am not surprised by the newly-released deposition, nor do I know why anyone would seek to supress it!"

To answer that question, I called Peter Nickles. Multiple times. He has yet to respond to my calls nor my e-mails seeking comment.

Ramsey has refused to comment as well. One of his press people up in Philly responded to my interview request this way:

"Police Commissioner Ramsey is well aware of the accusation. However he has no comment at this time."

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Comments

  1. Comrade Al Gonzales
    #1

    Eric Holder needs to appoint a special prosecutor. Normally you would have a Federal investigation of criminal civil rights violations like these, but since DC is already under the Federal thumb, it's an odd situation.

    If this had happened in Mississippi & hundreds of people had been wrongfully arrested & mistreated, & local officials had done nothing for over seven years, the clamor for the Feds to step in would be deafening.

    A special prosecutor should be appointed will full subpoena powers. If these accounts are true, Ramsey is guilty of perjury & guilty of violating these people's civil rights, subject to criminal penalties 18 U.S.C. §§ 241, 242, et seq. [see below].

    Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241
    Conspiracy Against Rights

    This statute makes it unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person of any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same).

    It further makes it unlawful for two or more persons to go in disguise on the highway or on the premises of another with the intent to prevent or hinder his/her free exercise or enjoyment of any rights so secured.

    Punishment varies from a fine or imprisonment of up to ten years, or both; and if death results, or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years, or for life, or may be sentenced to death.

    Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242
    Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law

    This statute makes it a crime for any person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom to willfully deprive or cause to be deprived from any person those rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the U.S.

    This law further prohibits a person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation or custom to willfully subject or cause to be subjected any person to different punishments, pains, or penalties, than those prescribed for punishment of citizens on account of such person being an alien or by reason of his/her color or race.

    Acts under "color of any law" include acts not only done by federal, state, or local officials within the bounds or limits of their lawful authority, but also acts done without and beyond the bounds of their lawful authority; provided that, in order for unlawful acts of any official to be done under "color of any law," the unlawful acts must be done while such official is purporting or pretending to act in the performance of his/her official duties. This definition includes, in addition to law enforcement officials, individuals such as Mayors, Council persons, Judges, Nursing Home Proprietors, Security Guards, etc., persons who are bound by laws, statutes ordinances, or customs.

    Punishment varies from a fine or imprisonment of up to one year, or both, and if bodily injury results or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire shall be fined or imprisoned up to ten years or both, and if death results, or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

  2. #2

    As someone who was in Pershing Park that day and as someone who continues on as a regular organizer of street demonstrations, the police "learned their lesson" for a short bit and then went right back to their old habits.

    There is a bit of city code that came out of some of the lawsuits around the Pershing Park case that reinforces the right of people to assemble and march spontaneously and without a permit. The general deal was that we can march without a permit on the streets as long as there's some kind of lane for traffic to get by.

    This worked fine up until 2008 when quite suddenly the police simply started beating people up. An anti-war march on the 6th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq saw cops throwing teenagers out of the street and IMF/World Bank protesters in April--prior to any reported law breaking--were beaten, thrown off the street, a few were arrested, and then we were lined up against the wall with our hands on our heads and forced to sit for an hour until we were either arrested or allowed to leave one-by-one (who was arrested and who was let go was largely random and no one arrested actually had charges pressed against them).

    A permitted march last April saw Officer Harold (I forget his first name) actually come up to us and tell us that he had the right to revoke our permit and we couldn't march in the street. The march went on as planned but only after he made sure to be seen as "allowing" us to march, rather than him being forced to allow us to march by virtue of the permit we held.

    And this along with the usual barrage of homophobic insults.

    So, Ms. Patterson, the police have only learned their lesson insofar as they've stopped mass arrests. They've shifted their attempts to shut down protests to tactics that are less lawsuit attention-grabbing: beating the ever loving shit out of you, driving motorcycles up the sides of marches and into people, using batons to knock people off the street, making random arrests, and then kicking the arrested out of the system like nothing ever happened.

    Rather smart on their part but no less monstrous.

  3. Comrade Al Gonzales
    #3

    Put Ramsey in prison for five years. Strip him of his pension & other benefits. That's a lesson. Anything else is not teaching anyone anything except that in capitalist countries there is no justice.

  4. #4

    Patterson for Council Chair!

  5. #5

    Spagnoletti for Mayor!

  6. #6

    Ok then, Spagnoletti and Patterson. I'm in.

  7. #7

    Judge Sullivan,keep sticking it to Nickles. You are my hero.

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