NEW YORK (April 30, 2012) – Today, Occupy-affiliated demonstrators who were illegally held for two hours against their will on November 30, 2011 inside a pen built of interlocking metal barricades filed a civil rights action in federal court. The group is represented by the law firms of Rankin & Taylor and Beldock Levine & Hoffman. In addition to damages, the group seeks an injunction on behalf of all demonstrators in New York City that would prohibit similar Police tactics.
“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,” said John Rivera, one of the class action plaintiffs, who was a member of the Civil Service Employees Association, a prominent New York Union, for 20 years and is a Bushwick, Brooklyn resident. Mr. Rivera has been demonstrating in New York City since the 1980s. His first political action was protesting the Soviet Embassy after the shooting of an American soldier in Germany. He says he has never experienced a detention like this one.
“What happened to me, and my fellow protesters, was an eye opener. We were corralled like farm animals.” Mr. Rivera had been spending time in Liberty Park since September 19, 2011.
Though the New York Civil Liberties Union was successful in getting the NYPD to agree to restrictions on the use of barricades in 2008, the current suit alleges that the police department has violated those guidelines as well as the US 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. We will look for judicial oversight of these tactics in order to defend New Yorker’s rights,” said attorney Mark Taylor.
“We were demonstrating peacefully and then with no warning we were detained for hours,” describes Jonathan Jetter, another of the plaintiffs, who is a professor at the State University of New York at Purchase and the owner of a midtown Manhattan-based music business. “We were denied access to legal representation and the press. I’ve taken part in many protests and this was the most chilling police response I’ve yet encountered,” he continued. Mr. Jetter lives in Queens.
“This felt like an attempt to scare us from participating in future protests,” explained Phoebe Berg of Brooklyn, another class representative. “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.”
For a video of the events of November 30, 2011, go to:
Press coverage of the events of November 30, 2011:
Josh Harkinson, They’re Holding Us Hostage, MOTHER JONES (Dec. 1, 2011), available at http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/11/occupy-wall-street-free-speech-zones-obama-protest- video
Matt Flegenheimer, Occupy Protestors Mobilize for Obama’s Visit, N.Y. TIMES CITY ROOM BLOG (Nov. 30, 2011), available at http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/30/ occupy-protesters-mobilize-for-obamas-visit
Joe Pompeo, Reporters Covering Occupy Wall Street Protest Outside Obama Fund-Raiser Say Police Barred Them, CAPITAL NEW YORK (Dec. 1, 2011), available at http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/media/2011/12/4378810/reporters-covering-occupy- wall-street-protest-outside-obama-fund-raise
John Del Signore, Protestors Blast ‘One Percent President’ Obama During $2.4M Visit to NYC, GOTHAMIST (Dec. 1, 2011), available at http://gothamist.com/2011/ 12/01/protesters_blast_one_percent_presid.php
Rankin & Taylor, PLLC
Press Coverage of Berg v. NYPD
Nick Pinto, On the Eve of May Day, a Raft of Suits Against the NYPD Over Treatment of Protesters, Village Voice (Apr. 30, 2012), available at http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2012/04/on_the_eve_of_m.php#more
Repost of Rankin & Taylor Press Release, Occupy the Bronx (Apr. 30, 2012), available at http://occupythebronx.org/2012/04/demonstrators-request-injunction-restricting-nypds-use-of-metal-barricades/
Colin Moynihan, Protesters Accuse Police of Improperly Using Barricades, The New York Times (Apr. 30, 2012), available at http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/30/protesters-accuse-police-of-improperly-using-barricades/
John Del Signore, Occupy Protesters Sue NYPD For Forcing Them Into Free Speech Cages, Gothamist (April 30, 2012), available at http://gothamist.com/2012/04/30/second_ows_lawsuit.php
Ruthann Robson, Complaint Against NYPD for Barricading OWS Protesters, Constitutional Law Prof Blog (April 30, 2012), available at http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/conlaw/2012/04/complaint-against-nypd-.html