In Washington, DC on August 13, 2020, protestors and activists staged a march from Malcolm X Park to the 3rd District precinct to call for defunding police and ending police brutality and misconduct. Though mostly peaceful, a trashcan was set alight outside a Starbucks halfway through the march, but activists continued to the precinct without interference from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). Late that night, MPD suddenly surrounded protestors using a controversial tactic called “kettling”, preventing them from leaving and began making indiscriminate arrests. 41 protestors, medics, legal observers and an independent photojournalist were among those detained and initially charged with felony riot. All but two were released with no charges, the remaining were charged with other offenses and released. Protestors dispute the account of MPD, and waited weeks to get their phones and equipment returned, which MPD held as evidence.
MPD has faced scrutiny and lost lawsuits over similar tactics in the past. According to DC law, it is illegal to use “a police line to encircle, or substantially encircle, a demonstration, rally, parade, march, picket line, or other similar assembly (or subpart thereof) conducted for the purpose of persons expressing their political, social, or religious views except where there is probable cause to believe that a significant number or percentage of the persons located in the area or zone have committed unlawful acts”.