Protesters against the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump have reportedly been pepper-sprayed repeatedly this morning. According to the Associated Press, police are pepper-spraying crowds as protests turn increasingly violent, leaving downtown D.C. restaurant windows smashed.
Reports on Twitter also indicate that flash bang grenades have been used on crowds by riot police.
WeAreChange has also released cell phone video of D.C. police, in full riot gear, deploying the grenades, spraying hoses at the crowds (which protesters allege are carrying pepper spray and not water,) and using riot batons on what appears to be a crowd of peaceful protesters. Many are masked and carrying red-and-black anarchist flags; most are simply marching.
A voice-over says, “[P]olice are going crazy.”
“They’re setting off flash-bangs in D.C. Pepper spray, tear gas everywhere. A lot of people being pummeled.”
A 2015 report by ProPublica states that in spite of their harmless-sounding moniker of “stun grenades,” flash-bangs are highly dangerous, capable of causing severe burns and even death – the operative word in “stun grenade” is still “grenade”. Police departments have been urged not to deploy the devices, designed to help military special forces rescue hostages in the 1970s, and they are banned for civilian and police use in many countries.
Referring to the grenades in a decision in 2000, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit wrote that “police cannot automatically throw bombs into drug dealers’ houses, even if the bomb goes by the euphemism ‘flash-bang device’.”
This was scene on way to work this am. Flash bang grenades. Black clad protesters. Police firing pepper spray. pic.twitter.com/ET2Qqx3TwY
— Greg Miller (@gregpmiller) January 20, 2017
According to RawStory, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has instructed police to turn off all body cameras during the inauguration weekend, a move approved by the ACLU. Senior policy analyst Jay Stanley expressed concerns that body cameras would be used to scrutinize and build databases of protesters.
“There is a long history of law enforcement compiling dossiers on peaceful activists exercising their First Amendment rights in public marches and protests.”
Reports from protesters allege that police are still using cameras to take pictures of the crowd; they’re just not using the personally-identifiable body cameras.
RawStory also noted that police in D.C. cannot have their body cameras on if nobody is breaking the law. The D.C. Office of Police Complaints has promised to send five camera teams to record police actions during the inauguration weekend.
Currently, there is no official word on use of force by police against D.C. protesters.
Update no. 1: According to a report from CBC, D.C. riot police were responding to a march by some 500 people wearing masks and kerchiefs, marching through downtown D.C., breaking windows of businesses that represented American capitalism – including a Bank of America branch, a McDonald’s, and a Starbucks. Many were flying anarchist flags and carrying ANTIFA (Anti-Fascist) signs, including noted ANTIFA slogan “Make Racists Afraid Again.” The crowd mostly dispersed after police responded in force.
Earlier in the day, a separate protest organized by a group called Disrupt J20 blocked security checkpoints, delaying the approach to the inauguration. There has been no official word on arrests but several of the Disrupt J20 protesters were seen being led away by police.
Disrupt J20 protest organizer Alli McCracken, 28, said that the group was there to protest Trump’s comments about women, illegal immigrants and Muslims.
“We have a lot of people of diverse backgrounds who are against U.S. imperialism, and we feel Trump will continue that legacy.”
The D.C. protests over Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States were echoed across the world, with sister protests ranging from Toronto, Canada, to Sydney, Australia, to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
— Gabriel Bristow (@gabriel_brist) January 20, 2017
U.S. embassies and consulates were warned of the potential for violent protests throughout the weekend.
[Featured Image by Jose Luis Magana/AP Images]