City settles $583,000 suit with 14 Occupy Wall Street protestors
City attorneys agreed to pay up $583,000 in damages and court fees to settle a lawsuit alleging NYPD officers wrongfully arrested protestors at a 2012 Occupy Wall Street rally.
Lawyers for the protestors hailed the settlement as New York City’s largest single settlement related to the movement — a claim the city was unable to verify since 14 people participated in the suit.
Even so, the Assistant Corporation Counsel for the city’s Law Department Andrew Lucas said the agreement was sound.
“This involved a fast-evolving, complicated policing situation occurring over many hours where only a small fraction of protesters was arrested,” Lucas said in a statement. “Settlement was in all parties’ best interest.”
The arrests were made on New Years Day in 2012 when protesters gathered on 13th Street in the East Village. Despite being charged and held at the police precinct, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office never pursued the case.
Video released by the law firm shows police encircling marchers after an officer instructed them to disperse. Attorney Wylie Stecklow said the Occupy supporters were blocked by police when they tried to do so.
“This systematic false arrest and misconduct by high ranking NYPD officers is a symptom of an institutional practice of chilling expressive speech activity and suppressing protest in New York City,” Stecklow said in a statement. “This was an unacceptable violation of basic constitutional rights perpetrated by the Bloomberg-Kelly NYPD.”
More than half of the settlement money will go towards attorney fees, with each of the 14 plaintiffs expected to receive between $5,000 and $20,000.
For some of those caught up in the arrest, however, the lawsuit was more a matter of principle than the money.
“I’m glad we were able to stand up for our rights and show the NYPD that the law applies to them as well,” Garrett O’Connor, one of the plaintiffs, said. “Now I hope there will be an investigation into the police tactics used against the Occupy Wall Street movement.”
Previous Occupy settlements
April 2014: The city paid $55,000 to a man who was livestreaming a 2011 march.
Dec. 2013: A man received $82,500 after claiming an officer assaulted him and arrested him three times.
April 2013: The City of New York paid $230,000 to the movement’s Library Working Group in damages and legal fees for destroying its library in Zuccotti Park.
April 2013: Livestreaming group Global Revolution received $125,000 for damage to equipment and legal fees
Nov. 2012: Three people received $50,000 after they were arrested and strip searched for allegedly planning to go to an Occupy rally.
Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter @chestersoria