NEW YORK (AP) — Police arrested more than 200 people for exercising their First Amendment rights at the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street in 2012, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Manhattan federal court and seeks class-action status, asked for unspecified damages and a stop to the misapplication of disorderly conduct laws to arrest peaceful protesters.
The lawsuit claimed the city enforced a policy that led to arrests of individuals engaged in free speech when there was no criminal conduct. It said the city failed to properly train, monitor and supervise its officers and encouraged unconstitutional practices.
Lawyers representing nine people arrested from Sept. 15-17, 2012, brought the lawsuit. It said the plaintiffs were among thousands of people who descended on the Wall Street area to celebrate the anniversary of the protests against economic inequality.
Attorney Wylie Stecklow said the city failed to train officers how to appropriately police First Amendment activities.
“Occupy Wall Street was the beginning of an effort to bring change to our country in the world by using First Amendment activity to raise awareness of institutional inequality,” he said.
Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city law office, said the city would review the merits of each claim and investigate the facts once it sees the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed on the same day that the city won a police brutality case in federal court that was brought by Stacey Hessler, an Occupy Wall Street protester who was arrested in 2011.
After a jury returned its verdict in less than an hour, city attorney Andrew Lucas said the quick deliberation “showed that they understood and agreed with what the officers did that day.”
He added: “Officers were faced with balancing the rights of protesters with the rights of people who live and work in the neighborhood.”