Last night, a concerning incident occurred at the Democratic Party Headquarters in Washington D.C., where protesters advocating for the “Let Gaza Live” movement faced violent police action from local and Capitol forces.
At the ACLU-D.C., we are concerned by this aggressive response. Initial video evidence prompts serious questions about the police action, particularly about the level of force used and the absence of warnings or opportunities for protesters to disperse. As our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. is a critical venue for the expression of views, including views sharply critical of government policy. This incident calls for an investigation, and any identified misconduct must be met with accountability. It also again shines a light on why we must end qualified immunity, which shields police officers and other government employees from being held responsible for malfeasance. Accountability for government actors is essential to protecting civil liberties and civil rights. As defenders of civil rights and liberties, the stark contrast between the police response to “Let Gaza Live” demonstrators and the groups of people who violently stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021 to overturn a democratic election is not lost on us.
We will continue to monitor the actions of the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department. The freedom to share diverse views and spark robust debate about political issues is essential to democracy, social justice, and progress — especially in times of national and global crisis. The government must ensure that demonstrators’ First Amendment rights are protected.