New York court dismisses lawsuit over Occupy Wall Street arrests

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 24, 2015 2:44 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters who were arrested on New York's Brooklyn Bridge in 2011 at the height of the movement against income inequality and wealth distribution in the United States.

In a ruling released late on Monday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit of Appeals in New York reversed its own August 2014 decision allowing the class action over alleged police misconduct to proceed.

The 2-1 decision by a three-judge panel was a rare example of the court choosing to vacate its own earlier ruling.

The 2011 lawsuit was filed against New York City police officers involved in arresting some 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters three days earlier during a march over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Many of the protesters claimed they were unlawfully arrested and tricked into believing the march, which blocked traffic, had been authorized since police initially blocking the thoroughfare had retreated and allowed the protesters to move forward.

In its decision, the court said there was no evidence the protesters had been authorized to block traffic and create a public disturbance.

"There was no explicit consultation between the leaders of the demonstration and the police about what conduct would be permitted," the court wrote. "Nor was there any express statement from any police official authorizing the protesters to cross the Bridge on the vehicular roadway, opining that doing so would be lawful, or waiving the enforcement of any traffic regulation."

The court did not explain why it had originally let the class action proceed.

Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the New York City Law Department which defends the city against lawsuits, called the court's decision "proper."

"As we have consistently maintained, the alleged facts and multiple videotapes of the events do not show that the plaintiffs were ever granted permission to march onto and block all vehicular traffic on the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge,” Paolucci said in a statement.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a lawyer for the class action plaintiffs, called the court's decision "extremely abrupt" and said it showed that "the judiciary is unwilling to hold the police accountable" for misconduct.

The bridge protesters were "peaceful and compliant with all directives from the police," she said.

(Reporting by Tom Brown, additional reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Andrew Hay)