This report, "Protest During Pandemic: D.C. Police Kettling of Racial Justice Demonstrators on Swann Street," is a collaboration of the ACLU of the District of Columbia, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, and Sidley Austin LLP.
On the evening of June 1, 2020, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) deployed significant force in and around Swann Street, a narrow residential street in Northwest D.C. to detain more than 200 people who had been protesting police brutality and excessive force in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. These protesters were arrested on a single, common charge — violation of the Mayor’s 7:00 p.m. curfew. Protesters were penned together in single residential city block and transported around the city for processing and arrest in vehicles that didn’t allow for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting their health and lives at unnecessary risk.
The report is based on interviews with more than 50 individual eyewitnesses, including protestors who were kettled and Swann Street residents who witnessed the events from their homes. In addition, we reviewed photos and video footage taken during the June 1 events, as well as other evidence available from the existing public record. Based on this review, we have identified multiple serious questions raised by MPD’s actions that night. The report also provides recommendations to the D.C. Council for police response to First Amendment assemblies.