Reprinted from The Villiage Voice
The legal aftermath of of the NYPD's crackdown on street protest over the past year continues to unfold, with another lawsuit filed against the department in federal court.
The most recent suit is filed by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund on behalf of two protesters, Johanne Sterling and Joshua Cartagena. Sterling was one of the young women kettled and pepper-sprayed by Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna on September 24 of last year.
On that day, Sterling was walking south on University Place from Union Square after an Occupy Wall Street rally when police surrounded her and other protesters with orange netting on the north side of 12th Street. That's when Bologna's now-infamous unprovoked pepper-spraying took place.
After getting sprayed, Sterling ultimately made it across the street to the sidewalk on the south corner, where she was once again trapped by NYPD netting and this time arrested and charged with "completely blocking vehicular traffic."
Cartagena wasn't pepper-sprayed but was also arrested on the sidewalk at University and 12th and charged with "completely blocking pedestrian and vehicular traffic on that sidewalk and on the street so that no one could pass."
The lawsuit notes that by last September, New York City had ample reason to know that Bologna had a tendency towards unconstitutional policing tactics against protesters, citing eight different lawsuits against him stemming from the 2004 Republican National Convention and the 2002 World Economic Forum.
"The New York City Police Department (NYPD) fundamentally altered the exercise of
free speech in New York City by eliminating the guarantees to engage in peaceable
protest on the City's sidewalks without fear of arrest and police violence," the suit alleges.
The suit seeks a declaratory judgment from the court that the use of this sort of sidewalk arrest, particularly the use of netting to effect mass arrests, constitutes a violation of first- and fourth-amendment rights.
For those keeping track, this most recent lawsuit is the latest atop a tall pile of suits against the city and its police department stemming from its suppression of Occupy Wall Street protests. There are already two suits by other protesters pepper-sprayed by Bologna. Other high-profile suits include one concerning the destruction of the People's Library, another regarding the destruction of video equipment, , and two filed in April concern the NYPD's use of barricades and its targeting of journalists and politicians.
A recent report by the NYU Law School and the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice documents widespread police misconduct and 130 different alleged incidents of excessive force in relation to Occupy Wall Street.
Here's the complaint from the most recent suit: