The city has agreed to pay more than $580,000 to a group of Occupy Wall Street protesters for a 2012 rally in which they allege they were wrongfully arrested, their lawyers announced Tuesday.
The suit is the largest single-case OWS false arrest settlement, said lawyer Wylie Stecklow, whose firm represented the protesters.
The 14 protesters were taken into custody after the early morning march on Jan.1, 2012, Stecklow said in front of City Hall. They had marched from Zuccotti Park up to Second Avenue in the East Village, he said.
“I applaud them for standing up for what they believe to be right and by doing so putting themselves in harms way,” he said. “I hope that this settlement is but a first step in the marathon towards the end goal of the city for all can exercise our constitutional rights without fear of retaliation, retribution or arrest.”
The protesters were held for several hours in the local precinct and then issued desk appearance tickets, he said. The 14 were not prosecuted, he said.
It was not the first protest for Garrett O’Connor, a 34-year-old labor organizer who was arrested that early morning. He was part of a group marching in a “loose formation” when he was stopped at a corner on Second Avenue, he said. He was told to disperse, he said Tuesday, but said he wasn’t given a way to do so.
He said he was surrounded by police on motorcyles and on foot.
“We were really out there to celebrate the year that we had had before, to acknowledge our accomplishments in 2011 and to get ready to continue moving through the winter and to 2013,” O’Connor said. “After asking how to exit I was grabbed, thrown the ground and handcuffed.”
He received just over $20,000 in the settlement.
The $583,000 was disbursed among the plaintiffs, with each receiving a sum of either $20,000 or $5,000. The rest went to legal fees, Stecklow said.
“This involved a fast-evolving, complicated policing situation occurring over many hours where only a small fraction of protesters was arrested,” said the city’s lawyer, Andrew Lucas, in a statement. “Settlement was in all parties’ best interest.”
A video, supplied by the law firm, shows police telling protesters to disperse or they will be arrested and several protesters asking where they can go.
Stecklow said re-training police is “essential.” He said senior officers have acted inappropriately and, therefore, influenced younger officers on the streets.
“But paying money to wronged occupiers is a start, not an end,” he said. “The city of New York needs to continue this progressive trend by recognizing when it comes to individual constitutional rights the police are often misinformed and mistrained.”