Civil Rights

National Lawyers Guild-New York City Legal Observer Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against the City of New York for His False Arrest and Imprisonment During New Year’s Day Occupy Wall Street Demonstration

New York County District Attorney’s Office Declined to Prosecute Legal Observer Damian Treffs for Disorderly Conduct Because NYPD Lacked Probable Cause for Arrest

NEW YORK (April 17, 2012) – Today, National Lawyers Guild New York City Chapter (NLG-NYC) Legal Observer Damian Treffs filed a lawsuit against the City of New York and the officers who falsely arrested him for legal observing a peaceful Occupy Wall Street demonstration the morning of January 1, 2012.  Mr. Treffs’ arrest and the excessive use of force by the NYPD was captured on video and broadcast live to thousands of viewers.  Mr. Treffs is represented by the Law Office of Rankin & Taylor.

The NYPD is long familiar with the NLG-NYC Legal Observers program, which has been a fixture at protests large and small around NYC since its founding in 1968.  Aggressiveness towards Legal Observers by NYPD police officers was a rarity until the Occupy Wall Street movement launched in September 2011. Historically, NYPD officers have shown respect to Legal Observers, easily identifiable by their bright green hats embroidered with the words, “National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer.”  Since the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement there has been frequent interference with both Legal Observers and journalists attempting to document the NYPD’s behavior.

Mr. Treffs, a seasoned Legal Observer, was recording the names of demonstrators arrested in the vicinity of Second Avenue between East 12th and East 13th Streets when he was himself arrested.  The videographer captured the moments before Mr. Treffs’ arrest and the excessive force used by the NYPD as eight officers converged on Mr. Treffs, threw him on top of the hood of a parked car, and violently cuffed him.  Mr. Treffs spent approximately six hours in police custody and was charged with disorderly conduct.  The New York County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute Mr. Treffs at his arraignment.

The video of Mr. Treffs’ arrest is available at Mr. Treffs appears at approximately the 10 minute mark and is arrested shortly thereafter.

Treffs’ attorney Mark Taylor stated, “Observing and recording police conduct is not a crime whether done by Legal Observers, the press, or ordinary citizens.  Under Commissioner Ray Kelly the NYPD has had a free reign to arrest witnesses in violation of New Yorker’s constitutional rights. We will work to hold the officers involved and the NYPD accountable for their actions.”

Mark C. Taylor, Law Office of Rankin & Taylor

# # #

Read more on Gothamist.