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D.C. Metropolitan Police Assistant Chief Peter Newsham can be held personally liable in a class action for violating the constitutional rights of nearly 400 protesters, the federal appeals court in Washington said last week. Without giving notice to disperse, Newsham ordered the arrests of an entire crowd gathered in D.C.’s Pershing Park in September 2002 during anti-globalization demonstrations. Senior Judge Harry Edwards wrote for a three-judge panel that “no reasonable officer in Newsham’s position could have believed that probable cause existed to order the sudden arrest of every individual in Pershing Park.” The appeals court ordered the federal trial court to determine whether D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey, who was present during the arrests, knew whether the mass detention snared some who were not observed breaking the law. In 2004, Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that Ramsey and Newsham did not have qualified immunity, which shields government officials from liability for damages so long as their actions do not violate constitutional rights. Ramsey and Newsham, a lawyer and member of the Maryland Bar, filed an emergency appeal last year. Robert Deso Jr. argued for Newsham and Mark Tuohey III represented Ramsey.
Lily Henning can be contacted at [email protected].

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