The evidentiary video they submitted with the suit can be seen here:
The other lawsuit brought against the NYPD today was in regards to the penning and detention of protestors last November.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Yetta Kurland 917 701 9590
Leo Glickman 917 582 1405
Wylie Stecklow 917 576 6727
Elected Officials and Members of the Press File Civil Rights Suit Against
NYPD and JP Morgan Chase For Arrests Related to OWS
Federal lawsuit alleges civil rights violated by NYPD and private entities including
JP Morgan Chase and Brookfield Properties asks for federal independent monitor
New York, NY. April 30, 2012. Lawyers on behalf of 5 elected officials and over half a dozen members of the press filed a major lawsuit today in federal court alleging the City of New York, the MTA, the New York Police Department, Brookfield Properties, JP Morgan Chase and others are in violation of numerous civil rights, including First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. The suit seeks redress for police misconduct in arrests made during the “Occupy Wall Street” protests and asks that a federal independent monitor be appointed to oversee the NYPD in order to safeguard the public.
The 143 page complaint submitted by a group of civil rights attorneys including Leo Glickman, Yetta G. Kurland and Wylie Stecklow, was filed today in United States District Court in the Southern District and includes a 24 minute video which highlights the use of excessive force and selective enforcement which many have claimed has become an issue over the past 6 months during the “Occupy” protests.
The suit also addresses the City’s relationship with JP Morgan Chase who donated $4.6 million to the NYPD during this time, as well as the fact that members of the press and elected officials have been arrested while observing and/or reporting on these protests.
One of the plaintiffs, New York City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, who was bloodied and arrested on November 15, 2011 for attempting to observe the eviction of Zuccotti park stated “While my charges were dismissed, the bigger issue still remains, namely that the NYPD misused their power and did not respect my First Amendment or the NYC Charter which gave me the right to act as an observer."
New York City Councilmember Letitia James, another plaintiff in the suit, stated “this is about accountability but it is also about ensuring that we have a proper balance of powers in this City. People should not be afraid to suffer harm from the police when they express their First Amendment right to assemble.”
New York City Councilmember Melissa Mark Viverito has also joined the suit. She stated “Some of us in the City Council are looking to address these issues legislatively, in the meantime we will avail ourselves of the United States judicial branch to ask for its help to ensure our police properly protect the public they are entrusted to serve.”
Jumaane Williams, another New York City Councilmember made the point that this effects everyone not just OWS protestors. “We hope this suit will help all New Yorkers, as well as the NYPD. We believe officers should not be put in a situation where they are asked to act in a way which results in this type of misconduct or puts them at odds with the public.”
John Knefel, a journalist and radio show host, who was arrested while covering a protest in the publicly-accessible Winter Garden in lower Manhattan because he didn’t have NYPD issue press credentials, is one of the plaintiffs as well. “It is of course concerning that the public is arrested for exercising their First Amendment rights, but it is likewise concerning that members of the press are arrested when they try to cover this.”
Justin Sullivan, another plaintiff and citizen press journalist who assembled the video exhibit for the suit stated “I was arrested while covering someone else being arrested for complaining about someone else being arrested for doing a ‘mic check’. This is not how our police should act.”
Attorneys and the plaintiffs will be holding a press conference at 9:45am on the steps of City Hall on Monday April 30, 2012. Copies of the complaint available from contacts above.
Samuel B. Cohen
Stecklow Cohen & Thompson
10 Spring Street Ste. 1
New York, NY 10012
The big lawsuit filed by City Council members and Occupy Wall Street protesters wasn't the only civil lawsuit filed against the NYPD in federal court today! Another lawsuit, specifically concerning the NYPD's barricading of protesters at a demonstration last November, was filed today, seeking unspecified damages and an injunction stopping the NYPD from engaging in such tactics.
The lawsuit (read it in full below) has to do with a demonstration on November 30th 2011 outside the Sheraton Hotel in midtown, where President Obama was giving a speech at a $1,000-a-head fundraiser. The demonstration was peaceful, but after the protesters arrived near the hotel, they were suddenly penned in by police, told they were in a "frozen zone," and not permitted to leave until after the president departed. "We came to express our views at a place where the President might see us, and were detained for hours as if we had committed a crime," says Buswick resident John Rivera, one of the class action plaintiffs, who was a member of the Civil Service Employees Association.
Reporter Andrew Katz said that night, "One officer actually said I could go into the kettle where the protesters were, but [another] officer grabbed my arm... and said we had to leave the area. Three officers, including a female officer who gripped her arm around my hip, escorted us a block down to 52nd Street behind a set of barricades." Mother Jones's Josh Harkinson was also there and filed this report about the "free speech zone."
According to the law firms of Rankin & Taylor and Beldock Levine & Hoffman, the NYCLU was successful in getting the NYPD to agree to restrictions on the use of barricades in 2008. But their lawsuit alleges that the NYPD has violated those guidelines as well as the U.S. Constitution. "Under Commissioner Kelly the NYPD has considered itself above any restrictions when it comes to political protests, even restrictions it agrees to in front of a federal judge," says attorney Mark Taylor.
Today's lawsuit was coincidentally filed simultaneously with another federal lawsuit accusing the NYPD of repressing First Amendment rights. That lawsuit, which includes four city councilmembers as plaintiffs, calls for the creation of federal monitor to oversee the NYPD policing of demonstrations. Protesters claim the NYPD has deliberately rounded them up for arrest on arbitrary charges to stifle dissent.
"This felt like an attempt to scare us from participating in future protests,” says Phoebe Berg, a Brooklyn protester who was outside the Sheraton and is named in the lawsuit. "I hate the fact that I can't help but take into account the real possibility of being detained again, not allowed access to a water/food or a restroom for possibly hours, during the May Day General Strike and other future actions."