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Citing Police Trap, Protesters File Suit

Reprinted from New York Times

October 4, 2011

A group of people arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge as part of the Occupy Wall Street protests last week filed a suit against New York City on Tuesday, alleging that officers had violated their constitutional rights by luring them into a trap and then arresting them.

The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, says that protesters who marched to the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday were led onto the bridge’s roadway by commanding police officers. Once protesters were on the bridge, the complaint says, officers prevented them from leaving. More than 700 people were arrested.

After the protesters were taken into custody, the police released videos showing an officer with a bullhorn warning protesters that they would be arrested if they did not get off the roadway. But those warnings “could not be heard mere feet away,” the suit says. 

“We believe the N.Y.P.D. engaged in a premeditated, planned, scripted and calculated effort to get the protesters off the street,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which is representing the protesters.

The class-action lawsuit, which says such tactics have been ruled illegal in other cases, seeks to ban similar measures in the future. It also demands that the arrests be expunged and requests unspecified damages.

On Tuesday evening, the city’s Law Department said it had not been formally served with the suit, which also names Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Raymond W. Kelly, the police commissioner. The Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The police did exactly what they were supposed to do,” Mr. Bloomberg said on Sunday.