The Washington, D.C.-based Partnership for Civil Justice Fund has just announced it filed a lawsuit this afternoon in the Southern District of New York on behalf of the protesters who were arrested on Saturday, Oct. 1 in a march over the Brooklyn Bridge. The lawsuit names Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and 40 unnamed police officers and law enforcement officials as defendants, charging them with “mass violations of constitutional rights in the trap and detain mass arrest of demonstrators.” The plaintiffs are Karina Garcia, Michael Cartier, Yari Osario, Benjamin Becker and Cassandra Regan and “others similarly situated.”
The lawsuit automatically applies to anyone who fits the “proposed class” of more than 700 people arrested that day, provided they were acting lawfully, unless those people opt out. If a settlement is won, protesters who were arrested can come forward and make a claim without having to sign on to the complaint.
Last year, the Fund won an $8.25 million class action settlement of “an eight-year-long and hard-fought litigation battle over the mass arrests of nearly 400 people in Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., in September 2002.”
The new complaint begins loftily: “As a new protest movement for social and economic justic sweeps New York City and the country, the Police Department of the City of New York has engaged in an unconstitutional effort to disrupt and suppress the ability of the people to come together and advocate for social change using the time-honored methods of mass assembly and collective action.”
The allegation is that police entrapped protesters into illegal activity so they could be arrested, according to a press release. “Police commanders led and escorted demonstrators onto the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge in an intentional entrapment,” Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF and counsel on the litigation, said in a statement. “The police conducted a charade–and duly videotaped it–of speaking inaudibly into a bullhorn that could not be heard mere feet away from the officer. The NYPD knew no audible communication was given. The NYPD also knew that the Constitution requires that any ostensible command must be heard by those who are expected to be bound by it. Instead, the NYPD engaged in a performance, videotaped it, and sprang their trap. They then set their PR machine into motion, widely distributing their edited videos of events to spin a false narrative to the public and the media.”
The Observer did not bother reaching out to the NYPD for comment as we are still waiting on a response for the query we called in more than a week ago, when we were told that the Division of Communications and Public Information was swamped with requests and would be addressing them in the order they came in.