The city has agreed to pay nearly $600,000 to settle allegations that police wrongfully arrested a group of Occupy Wall Street protesters, marking the largest settlement to date in an Occupy-related civil rights lawsuit, the marchers’ lawyers said Tuesday.
The $583,000 pact involves 14 demonstrators who said police ordered them to leave but prevented them from doing so and arrested them in lower Manhattan early on New Year’s Day 2012. The disorderly conduct cases were dismissed, according to the protesters’ federal lawsuit, which argues they were arrested “for expressing their views.”
“The police, led by supervising officers, stopped peaceful protesters on the sidewalk, surrounded them with a blue wall of police, told them to disperse, and then arrested them before they possibly could,” one of their lawyers, Wylie Stecklow, said in a statement. “This was an unacceptable violation of basic constitutional rights.”
The case, Peat v. City of New York, 12-cv-08230, the 14 plaintiffs settled for between $5,000 and $20,000 each. More than half of the $583,028 settlement went to legal fees.
“This involved a fast-evolving, complicated policing situation occurring over many hours where only a small fraction of protesters was arrested. Settlement was in all parties’ best interest,” said Assistant Corporation Counsel Andrew Lucas, who served as the city’s lead attorney in the case
The protesters had convened on Dec. 31, 2011 in Zuccotti Park, the lower Manhattan plaza where the anti-economic-inequality Occupy protesters had set up camp from the previous September until the city ousted them that November. Shortly after midnight, some of those at the New Year’s Eve gathering set off to walk en masse to Manhattan’s East Village.
The plaintiffs said they behaved peacefully, obeyed traffic laws and believed police had given them tacit approval to walk together on the sidewalk. But officers boxed them in and made arrests, they said.