MPD Chief Cathy Lanier
MPD Chief Cathy Lanier

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After D.C. police mass-arrested about 400 people at Pershing Park on Sept. 27, 2002, they hog-tied their quarries, cuffing their right wrists to their left ankles. The restraint left the arrestees in painful, circulation-stopping positions.

Surely there was a good reason to treat these peaceful protesters and passersby like pork, right? Like, they were a threat to throw garbage cans through plate-glass windows. Or they were getting ready to storm the White House. Or perhaps they aspired to stop traffic.

Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

The cops had a much more compelling motive—-to stop the arrestees from feeling each other up, and fucking. Which, of course, is what invariably happens after a mass arrest.

This particular episode in the long-running program “Reality Beats Fiction” comes courtesy of Cathy Lanier, the current police chief who at the time of Pershing Park held a top position in the department. Lanier was among the police officials who helped devise hogtying as a form of protest suppression.

In an after-action report, a police official wrote up an interview with Lanier in which she allegedly stated that the technique “was used to prevent escape, protect the protesters from one another, and to prevent them from committing sexual acts with each other.”

Lanier’s flexi-cuffs-as-chastity-belt defense had long been a howler among the D.C. Council, a body that has investigated Pershing Park. What has made this less funny is that other officials chose to parrot her defense.

The police department’s internal investigative report on Pershing Park takes Lanier’s justifications a step further—-prisoners getting it on had been a problem in the past!

“According to prisoner processing officials, there have been instances in past mass arrests in which arrestees were free to roam the processing areas unrestrained, and numerous complaints of sexual misconduct arose,” the report states.

Office of the Attorney General lawyers repeated these arguments in U.S. District Court, asserting that the use of flexi-cuffs were needed to prevent “mass fornication,” records show. This did not fly with the judge.

“As the Court made abundantly clear during oral argument, this rationale is flatly ridiculous, and the Court lends it no credit. Moreover, the Court sharply emphasizes that it does not accept this rationale as legitimate,” the judge noted.

Lanier has denied using the mass-fornication defense. She has claimed that her technique is actually comfortable.

One issue pending before the court in the Pershing Park cases is whether or not the District would be allowed to bar the public from embarrassing discovery material. It’s hard not to sympathize with the Office of the Attorney General’s position.

*photo by Darrow Montgomery.

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