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Law enforcement agencies that participated in the mass arrest of about 400 people during a 2002 World Bank protest in D.C.’s Pershing Park must face the music, a federal judge ruled last week. After nearly five years of legal proceedings, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan last week denied motions from U.S. Park Police and the Fairfax County, Va., Sheriff’s Department to dismiss two lawsuits filed by several people who allege they were encircled, arrested without cause or warning, funneled into buses, and dumped at the Metropolitan Police Academy on Sept. 27, 2002. The ruling in Barham v. Ramsey and Chang v. United States rejected the defendants’ argument that they were immune from liability because they did not participate in the arrest but merely provided bodies to create a wall around the park at the request of D.C. police. The “arrest” occurred when the park was encircled, according to Sullivan. The judge also dismissed the Sheriff’s Department’s claim that the members of the agency were on loan to the Park Police and thus not liable. Dan Schwartz of Bryan Cave, who represents a group of former George Washington University students in the Chang case, says the ruling has immediate import, win or lose. “The significance is that any federal agency or local police department that is asked to come down and participate in mass demonstrations has to understand that it is on their heads to do it right,” he says. Assistant U.S. Attorney Marina Braswell, who represented the Park Police, could not be reached.
Joe Palazzolo can be contacted at [email protected].

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