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Lawsuit Filed Over Brooklyn Bridge Mass Arrest

Reprinted from Gawker, By Lauri Apple

The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Partnership for Civil Justice Fund has filed a federal class action lawsuit against New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the city, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, and a bunch of unidentified cops and law enforcement agents over Saturday’s controversial kettling-fest and mass arrest of protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge.

PCJ filed its 20-page case, Garcia v. Bloomberg (which you can read here), on behalf of five protesters who claim that, during their march from Zuccotti Park, NYPD officers led them and 700 others across the Brooklyn Bridge, prevented them from leaving, and “falsely” arrested them—all alleged Fourth Amendment violations. According to PCJ, the defendants “engaged in a premeditated, planned, scripted and calculated effort to sweep the streets of protestors and disrupt a growing protest movement in New York,” and cites as evidence of premeditation the fact that the officers who led the crowd were command officers. Also, cops who delivered commands used their bullhorns, but spoke softly enough so that protesters couldn’t actually hear them over all the noise. It’s not like the march crossed through a monk’s retreat, after all. NYC is a little noisy. PCJ believes the cops spoke “inaudibly” on purpose, and that the use of the bullhorns was all a “charade.” In general, PCJ says, NYPD has a “policy” of arresting people en masse without probable cause that dates back to the 1970s, and so far the city hasn’t done anything about it, and so here we are, litigating these issues in court (again).

In addition to citing alleged Fourth Amendment violations, the suit also claims a number of First Amendment violations. For example, one of the plaintiffs was allegedly told by an NYPD officer that the rationale behind the mass arrest was to keep them from continuing the demonstration. Another plaintiff was supposedly told by an officer that “next time you’ll think twice about going out to protest.” Such statements amount to “chilling” speech and are therefore unconstitutional, the suit says.

The plaintiffs seek monetary compensation for Saturday’s drama plus arrest nullification, expungement of their records, and an injunction prohibiting similar mass arrests in the future. Will they get it? Possibly: The PCJ has a pretty good record of winning the suits they file—obtaining settlement in which the city had to develop a constitutional permitting scheme for protests in one case, and winning monetary compensation for protesters in other cases.

It’s nice that the 99 percent has some lawyers helping them out, but who’s going to stick up for the other one percent’s right to make millions of dollars freely and without unnecessary government intrusion? Please, somebody help them.