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No Immunity for Officer in IMF Protest Arrests

(CN) - The D.C. Circuit denied qualified immunity to a U.S. Park Police officer sued for his role in arresting protesters near the White House in 2002.

Protesters gathered in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 27, 2002, to denounce the policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Richard Murphy, the commander of the Special Forces branch of the U.S. Park Police, worked with local police to surround the park. Everyone in the park was arrested for failure to comply with a police order to disperse.

The protesters sued, claiming Murphy and the other officers violated their rights by cordoning off the park and conducting a mass arrest.

The district court denied Murphy's claim of qualified immunity, and Judge Sentelle upheld the decision.

The federal appeals court had already denied qualified immunity to local Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham. In that case, the court wrote that Newsham did not have "reasonable, particularized grounds to believe that every one of the 386 people arrested was observed committing a crime."

In this case, Judge Sentelle ruled, "Murphy states that he trusted Newsham that probable cause existed to arrest those in the park, but this statement is not enough to establish an undisputed fact."

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