ACLU Challenges Another "Contempt of Cop" False Arrest: Transit Police At Fault, Suit Says, In 2011 U Street IncidentJanuary 26, 2012
Lawrence Miller saw his friend, Dwight Harris, thrown from his wheelchair last June 2011 by Metro Transit Police, and he spoke up--asking the officers why; urging them to take more care of a disabled person; and questioning why a peaceful U Street vendor lay bloody on the sidewalk. Police told him to be quiet and he turned to leave.
Even so, despite committing no crime and apparently just for asking his questions, Miller was arrested and locked up, charged with inciting a riot and assaulting an officer--charges a prosecutor tossed out at the first opportunity.
On January 17, represented by the ACLU, Miller filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court in the District. The suit explains the constitutional violation that occurs when police arrest a bystander for speech and asks for damages for the infringement of basic freedoms, false arrest and physical restraint in a police lockup that Miller needlessly suffered.
The original incident drew wide attention when video surfaced of Mr. Harris lying injured on the U Street pavement. The new ACLU lawsuit, in turn, was widely covered by local CBS, Fox and NBC outlets as well as WTOP radio. (Additional stories on CBS and NBC here.)
Senior ACLU Staff Attorney, Fritz Mulhauser, one of the attorneys for Mr. Miller, said "The ACLU hopes that today's lawsuit will send a message. That is, the leadership of our Metro system needs to compensate Mr. Miller for his injury but also it needs urgently to send its patrol officers back for a refresher class on the oath each officer took entering on duty, to support the Constitution. It's a basic freedom everyone enjoys, to be able to speak up in public about actions that concern them, without fear of false arrest. Our police must recognize that."
The complaint beginning the lawsuit is available here. The case was assigned to Judge J.E. Boasberg.
UPDATE: The case was amicably resolved in May 2012. The terms are confidential.