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A few months ago, Det. Paul Hustler came forward and stated in his sworn affidavit that he had heard D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey give the order to arrest the 400 individuals in Pershing Park on Sept. 27, 2002. The testimony had contradicted the former chief’s sworn-statements in which he denied ordering the arrests.
Even seven years later, the events of that day still provoke. Hustler’s deposition cost the city big time. The District has agreed to pay Ramsey’s attorney more than $100,000 in legal fees for three months worth of work—much of that work must concern Hustler’s testimony. The AG Peter Nickles wasted more time and money filing a motion that essentially attacked Hustler’s character. At the last hearing on the Pershing Park cases, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan allowed defendants to depose Hustler. This will only cost the city more dough.
And yet, Hustler’s testimony concerning Ramsey’s alleged order is really, really old news. Another police official had pretty much said the same thing on Nov. 5, 2003.
Here is what Hustler stated in his affidavit in mid-November:
“I was standing about 8 to 9 feet away from Chief Ramsey and Assistant Chief Fitzgerald, with Assistant Chief Jordan and Assistant Chief Newsham standing around. At this time no arrests of those protesters had been made. As I walked closer, about 5 to 6 feet away from them, I heard Chief Ramsey say we’re going to lock them up and teach them a lesson.”
Here is what Captain Ralph McLean stated about the arrests at Pershing Park in his testimony before the D.C. Council on Nov. 5, 2003:
“I remember a group that was involved in discussions, Chief Ramsey, Chief Jordan, Assistant Chief Fitzgerald, Chief Newsham. There were several other people. I think Joe Gentile was there for a while, but I’m not sure at what point he came and left. He came and went several times….The main discussion I remember was OK, we’ve got them, what are we going to do with them?”
McLean goes on to state:
“It was—-in my mind—-it was a lengthy discussion. It could have taken a minute or less, but there was a lot of back and forth between Chief Ramsey, Chief Newsham. Chief Jordan was particularly vocal.”
McLean was then asked what Ramsey’s said during the discussion:
“[Ramsey] ordered Assistant Chief Newsham to lock the protesters in Pershing Park up….It is very vivid in my memory….My recollection is pretty much that Chief Ramsey said, lock them up.”
After the discussion broke up, McLean questioned Newsham about having to arrest everyone in the park:
“I said, ‘OK, Chief, exactly what are we going to lock them up for?’ And he stopped and he turned toward me and said, ‘Well, what do we have?’ I said, ‘Well, the last group, they were definitely off their permit. We can lock them up for parading without a permit.’ I said, ‘But there were other people in the park. I don’t know what we can do about that.’ And he said, ‘Well, you heard [Ramsey], we’re locking them up.’ I said, ‘OK.'”
McLean said that no one conducting the department’s internal investigation into Pershing Park interviewed him. “I thought it was kind of odd,” he told the Council. “But, you know, that’s not—-that’s not my place….I didn’t understand why nobody had spoken to me.”
*photo by Darrow Montgomery.