Occupy Wall Street protesters claim New York Police Department officers violated their constitutional rights, and that the city failed to properly train cops to handle political demonstrations, according to a suit filed last week in Manhattan federal court.
Lawyers representing Occupy Wall Street protesters are seeking damages for about 200 people arrested on the protests’ first anniversary – Sept. 17, 2012 – and the two preceding days, The New York Timesreports. The suit names the city of New York; former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; Raymond W. Kelly, the former police commissioner; and four police commanders.
Scores of false-arrest lawsuits rooted in Occupy events have been filed against the city, but this one differs from others because the plaintiffs are focusing on the assertion that the city had a deliberate policy of indifference to expressive speech rights. First Amendment activity is typically entitled to wide latitude under the law, said Wylie Stecklow, one of the lawyers who filed the case. But he added that the police have a history of arresting protesters on disorderly conduct charges when their behavior might have caused an inconvenience but was not criminal.
“When the Constitution is involved,” Mr. Stecklow said, “you need a real threat to public order, not just a technical violation, to justify a disorderly conduct charge, and that is not understood by a vast majority of members of the police force, from police officer up to chief.”
Further, Stecklow says the city failed to conduct “training in disorder control about how to break up mass protests and did not do training in First Amendment policing,” the report says.
A Police Department spokesman did not respond to The Times’ request for comment, while a spokesman for the city’s Law Department said they would review the claims.