U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Shay Horse arrested at Trump inauguration protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
January 20, 2017
Case number
Case Status
Type of case
Class Action

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Arresting Authority
Metropolitan Police Department
  • Rioting
    • Jan. 21, 2017: Charges pending
    • Feb. 1, 2017: Charges dropped
Release Date
Unnecessary use of force?


Was the journalist targeted?
REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Activists stand amid smoke from a stun grenade during a protest against President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the inauguration in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2017.

— REUTERS/Adrees Latif
April 26, 2021 - Update

DC settles class action lawsuit brought by independent journalist, others

After more than four years, the District of Columbia agreed to pay $605,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of DC on behalf of individuals, including independent journalist Shay Horse, assaulted and wrongfully arrested during the Inauguration Day protests in 2017.

Horse was arrested on charges of felony rioting; denied food, water and bathroom access; and subjected to invasive searches while in police custody on Jan. 20, 2017. The charges were dropped in February, and in June the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the District, the Metropolitan Police Department and multiple officers on behalf of Shay, a legal observer and several protesters.

On April 26, 2021, the plaintiffs agreed to settle the suit for a payment of $605,000, an agreement that the government wouldn’t oppose the plaintiffs’ motion to expunge their arrest records and policy changes around mass arrests. According to the ACLU, the District has paid a total of $1.6 million to settle civil claims arising from the police response to the 2017 Inauguration Day protests.

June 21, 2017 - Update

Photojournalist arrested while covering Inauguration Day protests named as plaintiff in ACLU lawsuit

Shay Horse is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia against the District of Columbia. On June 21, 2017, the ACLU issued a press release stating that it had sued the District of Columbia, Metropolitan Police Department officers, and D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham for excessive force and unconstitutional arrests on Inauguration Day, including violations of First Amendment.

The press release said that Horse had been “kettled and subjected to pepper spray, tear gas, and painful handcuffing.” He was also “denied food, water, and bathroom access for several hours.” Horse had also been “subjected to invasive manual rectal probe searches while in police custody,” and said he felt like he had been raped, according to DCist. In the press release, Horse was quoted as saying, “With this lawsuit, I want to stand up for all the protestors who were abused and bullied and assaulted and molested.”

According to the DC Post, the District of Columbia had filed for a dismissal of the lawsuit, which was denied on Sept. 27, 2019. The judge did, however, permit the motion for dismissal of some of the lawsuit’s claims.

Editor's Note: This incident has been updated to include cross-listing under the Tracker's Assault category following the release of additional details in the ACLU lawsuit.

January 20, 2017

Independent journalist Shay Horse was arrested on Jan. 20, 2017, in Washington, D.C., while covering protests around the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

Like other journalists and protesters arrested that day, Horse was charged with the highest level of offense under the district’s law against rioting, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and fines of up to $25,000.

In February, the charges against Horse were dropped.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].