“…only a small fraction of protesters was arrested.” – Andrew Lucas, Attorney for New York City
New York City continues to pay the price for aggressive police tactics against Occupy Wall Street. On June 10, the city settled a lawsuit brought by Occupy protesters who were illegally penned in and arrested while marching on a sidewalk in the East Village. On New Year’s eve, Occupiers re-took Zucotti Park for a short while, before being kicked out by police and private security guards. Once removed from the park, protesters were ordered to clear the area. One group of about 200 set off for another park, walking on the sidewalks. When they reached 13th Street, police ordered them to disperse, but surrounded them and prevented them from leaving (video here). Police arrested the plaintiffs, charging them with disorderly conduct. Prosecutors later dropped the charges (as charges were dropped against nearly all of the roughly 2,600 people arrested during the span of Occupy). The $583,000 award is the largest so far for New York City’s Occupy (meanwhile, Oakland, CA has paid out $6.2 million). Plaintiffs and lawyers in the case urged the city to retrain officers and change the way it treats peaceful protests.
“Public speech, and the right to dissent, are core values important for our democracy, and I hope that this settlement will lead those in power and the NYPD to better respect our First Amendment rights.” – Jennifer Peat, lead plaintiff.
We don’t have an official tally for payouts to wrongfully arrested NYC Occupy protesters, but it tops $1 million (see below for a partial list). Still outstanding though, are lawsuits involving two high-profile incidents: the close-range pepper spraying of protesters, and the mass arrest of 700 protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1, 2011. Although the cost of these settlements may seem high, the NYPD has apparently not learned anything from them. Wrongful arrests during the Republican National Convention in 2004 cost the city upwards of $40 million, yet they used the same aggressive and illegal tactics against Occupy Wall Street. Leading us to wonder, does the city consider $40 million a small price to pay to crush dissent and demonize protest movements? While the protests are happening, mass arrests allow police to steer the narrative and promote an image of dangerous protesters (hundreds of arrests!). That serves the purpose of dampening turn-out and undercutting support for the message of the protests. In the end, the broader public is left the with an image of lawless protesters, that even million dollar settlements are hard pressed to counter. Here is a partial lists of settlements the city has paid out: $366,700 for the November 15, 2011 raid that ruined the OWS library. $82,000 to Shawn Schrader, who was arrested the same night as Cecily and choked by police. He was also arrested on an old public urination charge – against someone else. $55,000 to Josh Boss for a December 2011 incident of police brutality. $50,000 to three OWS activists who were surrounded by 30 cops and arrested in November, 2011. They were detained for 24 hours, strip searched and questioned about OWS. At the time of their arrest, the activists were not at Zuccotti Park, leading them (and us) to believe they were being followed. $25,000 to Sade Adona who was thrown to the ground and beaten and hauled off by police on October 26, 2011. She was charged with resisting arrest, attempted assault and disorderly conduct. Those charges were dropped. For more on NYPD repression of Occupy Wall Street see this report: Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street