City Pays $583,024 to Occupy Wall Street Protestors
Jennifer Peat, one of 14 plaintiffs in the lawsuit, flanked by her lawyers and co-plaintiffs
The city of New York has agreed to pay more than half a million dollars ($583,024 to be exact) in damages and attorney fees after falsely arresting 14 Occupy Wall Street protestors on January 1, 2012. It's the largest Occupy settlement to date, but the lion-share of the money will go to the protestors' lawyers. Each plaintiff has received between $5,000 and $20,000, but the city will pay Stecklow, Cohen & Thompson $333,000 in attorney fees and litigation costs.
The demonstrators were arrested after marching from Zucotti Park to Second Avenue and 13th Street at 12:30am on New Years Ever. At 13th Street, officers surrounded the marchers, and ordered them to disperse. When they didn't disperse--because they couldn't, with the officers blocking their paths--about 34 marchers were arrested.
"As the video clearly indicates, the march was no yet blocking the sidewalk and just minutes before the dispersal order, the police had ordered the marchers to keep walking," Wylie Stecklow of the plaintiff's law firm, Stecklow, Cohen & Thompson, said on Tuesday. "In the period after that dispersal order was made the NYPD committed a second violation of the plaintiffs' rights by failing to grant a reasonable opportunity and path to disperse."
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The 14 plaintiffs--five women and nine men, from all over the country--as well as 20 other marchers, were arrested and held for 5 hours before being released with a ticket. The District Attorney ultimately declined to prosecute almost all of those cases.
Jennifer Peat, lead plaintiff in the case said on Tuesday she was pleased with the settlement. "Public speech, the right to dissent--these are core values that are important to our democracy and I hope that this settlement will lead those in power and the NYPD to better respect our first amendment rights," she said.
David Thompson, attorney for the plaintiffs, struck a similar note, adding: "Arresting nonviolent protestors helps to protect the true wrong doers who were the people, politicians and institutions that have corrupted our economic and political life."
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