The U.S. Park Police have made at least 26 arrests during the past year in Meridian Hill Park known as Malcolm X Park in Washington, D.C. of men seeking other men for a sexual encounters according to a Park Police spokesperson.
Malcolm X Park, has been known for at least 50 years as a cruising spot in a secluded areas of the park at night for mostly African-American gay men.
Washington, D.C. defense attorney John Albanes and other attorneys who are representing some of gay men who were arrested report that undercover officers are pose as consenting partners interested in a sexual tryst.
“I am on a D.C. Superior Court trial lawyers association listserv and recently several criminal defense attorneys on the email list have mentioned that they have had criminal cases involving essentially the same set of facts,” Albanes told the Blade in an email. “[U]ndercover plain-clothes Park Police officers entice men in Meridian Hill Park for purportedly consensual sexual activity and then proceed to arrest their targets for a crime (often misdemeanor sexual abuse),” according to Albanes.
“I find this pattern extremely disturbing and reminiscent of the Stonewall days when gay men were often the target of police discrimination. The tactics used in these cases just fly in the face of proper police work and should be exposed,” he said. The officers are posing as willing participants in a consensual encounter between adults. The target is deceived into thinking that what he is about to do is wanted. This raises serious doubts about whether the government can prove criminal intent.”
Sgt. Eduardo Delgado, a Park Police public information officer, told the LGBT website the Washington Blade the 26 arrests made in the park since Aug. 7, 2018 involve charges of one or a combination of Disorderly Conduct, Lewd Acts, Unlawful Entry, and Simple Assault (Sexual).
In a statement Delgado said : “The U.S. Park Police receives complaints about lewd acts that occur within Meridian Hill. As with any other complaint of illegal activity, we then take actions to stop it,” he said. “Plain clothes officers are just one method of enforcement sometimes used to deter, stop, and/or arrest violators within the parks.”
Before being “reclaimed” by the neighborhood and gentrified in the 80’s. Meridian Hill Park was a virtual den of thieves. One newspaper article quoted a police officer who called it “a supermarket of drug dealing.” A 1989 study called the park the “Most Murderous” in that section of the city.