NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A group of protesters who claim they were wrongfully arrested by police during an Occupy Wall Street march on New Year’s Day 2012 will receive nearly $600,000 from New York City in a settlement deal.
Attorneys from the firm Stecklow Cohen & Thompson said the $583,000 agreement reached Tuesday is the largest settlement to date in a single Occupy-related civil rights case. It involves 14 demonstrators.
The New York City Law Department said reaching a settlement “was in all parties’ best interest.” The city called the episode “a fast-evolving, complicated policing situation.”
NYC, Occupy Wall Street Protesters Settle Lawsuit Over Alleged Wrongful Arrests
“The police issued to them an order to disperse, but then prevented them from complying with that order by preventing them from leaving,” the protesters’ lawyer David Thompson told WCBS 880’s Ginny Kosola.
The protesters claimed they were walking in Manhattan when police boxed them in and ordered them to disperse, then prevented them from doing so. They were arrested on disorderly conduct charges, which were later dismissed.
The protesters’ federal lawsuit over the arrests argued they were arrested “for expressing their views.”
“We were out there to send a message, and our rights were suppressed,” demonstrator Garrett O’Connor said Tuesday. The 34-year-old labor activist said police tackled him to the ground as he tried to follow their order to clear out.
The march unfurled after a restive New Year’s Eve in Zuccotti Park. Some 68 people were arrested on that New Year’s Eve when police said the protesters tore down barricades surrounding the park.
Shortly after midnight, some others set off to walk en masse to Manhattan’s East Village.
A lawyer for New York City called the march “rowdy and tumultuous” at a court date last fall, according to a transcript. But the protesters’ lawsuit claimed they behaved peacefully and obeyed traffic laws, and police at times blocked traffic to let them cross streets safely together.
But then, in the East Village, officers boxed them in and made arrests, the suit alleged.
Stecklow Cohen & Thompson also supplied video from the incident, which shows officers saying the demonstrators are blocking the sidewalk and will be arrested if they don’t leave, while some protesters ask how they can. Some footage shows police pointing out ways the demonstrators can go; subsequent parts show arrests beginning.
Since the movement began, police officers have made more than 2,600 arrests on various charges at Occupy-related events.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office agreed to dismiss more than 78 percent of the cases. More than 400 people pleaded guilty or were convicted at trials, 11 were acquitted, and judges dismissed some other cases, according to the DA’s office.
There’s no official list of Occupy-related settlements. Lawyers involved track them informally.
They include $230,000 that the city and Zuccotti Park’s private owner are paying over allegations that a book collection was trashed when the park was cleared, and $55,000 to a man arrested while shooting video at an Occupy demonstration, according to lawyers in those cases.
In the settlement announced Tuesday, the individual protesters will receive $5,000 to $20,000 apiece, and their lawyers $333,000 for fees and costs, the attorneys said.
“The point was never the money. It was that there be consequences for the actions of the NYPD,” said protester Jennifer Peat, 36.
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