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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

2004 RNC Protesters Win Class Certification

MANHATTAN (CN) - Nearly seven years after originally filing their class action complaint, protesters of the 2004 Republican National Convention won class certification for a suit that says about 1,800 people had their rights violated in a sweep of mass arrests.

The plaintiffs' attorneys hailed the belated decision.

"We're very pleased with the outcome. We're not happy that it took the court several years to decide it," Jonathan Moore of Moore & Goodman, LLP told Courthouse News in a phone interview. "Now, we're in a position to seek justice for all those falsely arrested and excessively detained at the 2004 Republican National Convention."

On Nov. 22, 2004, 24 protesters sued New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and dozens of other NYPD cops and officials for false arrest, punitive detention, abuse of process and other constitutional violations.

They say the city had an indiscriminate mass arrest policy that called for the use of mesh netting and lines of police officers to barricade and corral large groups of protesters, reporters, legal observers, and bystanders, without giving audible dispersal orders.

In their original complaint, the plaintiffs said they received "cruel and inhumane" treatment in cold, loud, chemical-strewn, makeshift cells in Pier 57, along the Hudson River.

"On information and belief, the floors of the cages in Pier 57 were covered with numerous highly toxic chemicals and substances, including, on information and belief, those known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic, hepatogenic, and immunotoxic ... The floors of the cages in Pier 57 were also covered in other dirt and grime," the original complaint stated.

The protesters said that city cops taunted them and said they would be held "until George Bush left town."

The complaint was amended twice, most recently in 2008.

In his 29-page order and opinion, U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan divided the classes into eight subclasses, based on site of the arrest, group of people involved and the location of the detention.

The judge certified six of these groups and dismissed the other two for lack of predominance.

The green-lighted claims include a group of cyclists participating in Critical Mass, a monthly bike ride for environmental activism; an unaffiliated group of cyclists, rollerbladers and pedestrians; activists from the War Resisters League, which opposes paying taxes for military purposes; and three other groups of marchers, protesters and bystanders.

One of the standing plaintiffs, according to the order, was a 15-year-old on her way to a movie theater.

A spokeswoman for the New York City Law Department wrote in an emailed statement that they are reviewing the decision. There will be a status conference on June 6.

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