D.C. Settles Lawsuit Over Arrest of Demonstrators at World Bank/IMF Protest

The District of Columbia has agreed to pay $1 million to a group of people who claimed they were illegally arrested during protests downtown five years ago.

The settlement of the suit, which was filed on behalf of more than 120 people, is the largest payout to date by the city for police actions during the Sept. 27, 2002, demonstrations against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and the planned Iraq invasion.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan also ordered D.C. police to expunge any records of the arrests.

The city previously agreed to pay more than $640,000 to settle lawsuits filed by 14 others who said they were illegally rounded up by police. A larger class-action lawsuit is pending, covering more than 400 people who say they were illegally arrested at Pershing Park near the White House.

Wednesday's settlement calls for each plaintiff to receive at least $6,000. Sixteen plaintiffs who gave depositions or testified will get an additional $5,000 apiece. The rest of the money will go toward attorney and legal fees.

Charles Ramsey, who was police chief at the time, initially defended the arrests but later acknowledged that they were improper. Police failed to order the crowds to disperse or warn that they faced arrest.

The plaintiffs included demonstrators as well as bystanders who were caught in the commotion. Most were charged with parading without a permit, said Arthur Spitzer, a legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Several of those arrested said that while the settlement brings closure, they remain upset they could not participate in the demonstrations because they were put in jail.

"This is not America," said Joel Diamond, a former law enforcement officer.