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Lawyer Swept up in Protest Sues for Inauguration Arrests

By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 31, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Benjamin Christopher Carraway planned on spending a night while in Washington to attend Donald Trump's inauguration, but he didn't plan on spending the night in the local jail.

Carraway was arrested on Inauguration Day with about 230 other people who were demonstrating. Carraway, a Colorado criminal defense attorney, said he was among the protesters who did nothing to warrant the mass arrest.

In a class action complaint filed in federal district court, he said police herded the group around 12th and L Street, NW, and indiscriminately deployed chemical irritants, attacked the individuals with batons, and threw flash-bang grenades. Many in the crowd were legal representatives, members of the media, and medical personnel.

False Arrest, Excessive Force

"None of the plaintiffs who are members of this class destroyed or attempted to destroy property, assaulted or attempted to assault any individuals, rioted, or in any way would have appeared to the police to have been breaking the law," the complaint says.

The suit claims police falsely arrested and used excessive force against the plaintiffs, causing mental anguish, pain and physical injuries. Some protesters were arrested and taken to jail, the complaint says, but all were exposed to the chemical irritants and flash-bang grenades.

Interim D.C. police chief Peter Newsham said officers got in front of the demonstrators with the goal of trapping them after property had been destroyed. Police said the protesters rampaged through downtown, breaking store and car windows with hammers and crow bars."All the police officers were outstanding in the judgment that they used," Newsham said on a local radio report. "They used the least amount of force necessary to bring those folks safely and respectfully into custody."

Carraway, who reportedly worked as a legal adviser for the group, was ready to act when police swept up the protesters. Before he was released, the lawsuit was filed through the local offices of Jeffrey L. Light.

Working through #DisruptJ20, the protesters had been organizing since Trump won the election. They set up a website featuring a legal section authored by the "Dead City Legal Posse," which provides a hotline and a legal guide specifically for the Inauguration Day protest. It includes information about how to answer police questions, what happens in court, and other practical instructions.

Lawyers have also become unlikely heroes in the recent immigration fight at airports across the nation.

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