SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The 360 Occupy Oakland protesters who claim they were falsely arrested and subjected to unconstitutional jail conditions after a January 2012 protest have been granted class certification and a tentative settlement.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins on Jan. 5 gave the class preliminary approval for a settlement of more than $1.3 million.
Lead plaintiff Steven Angell complained that Oakland’s police officers “corralled and trapped” the protesters in front of the Oakland YMCA on Broadway, where they were “pushed, clubbed and driven into a shrinking space.”
Angell claimed that the entire group was arrested without probable cause.
Police said the protesters were arrested for failure to disperse, but Angell said the group had been given no notice or opportunity to do so.
Once under arrest, they were forced to stand or sit on the street for hours, were not allowed to use restrooms or take necessary medications, then taken to various Alameda County jails, where they were held for 12 to 85 hours, according to the complaint. The group’s attorneys estimated that the total incarceration time was 13,500 hours.
In jail, the class claims, they were subjected to “overcrowded and inhumane conditions” and were denied phone calls and access to legal counsel.
Yolanda Huang, the class’s lead attorney, said in a telephone interview that the lawsuit has caused the Oakland Police Department to implement positive policy changes in the way it handles protests.
“Protesters should not be hauled off to jail for long periods of time,” she said. “They should be recognized for minor penal code violations, cited and released, rather than being forced to go through the formal booking process at jail.
“The OPD has made those changes, and kudos to them for following through.”
The defendants could not be reached for comment.
The preliminarily approved settlement stipulates that the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda will pay the class more than $1.3 million, which will be divided equally among the class members after attorneys’ fees and class representatives’ awards are deducted.
Cousins ruled that the class counsel would receive $350,000, and that each of the eight class representatives would receive $9,000.
The settlement also requires sealing and destruction of the arrest records, police reports and other documents pertaining to the class members’ arrest.
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