MANHATTAN (CN) – Four New York lawmakers and several journalists have filed a 143-page federal lawsuit detailing alleged constitutional violations aimed at suppressing the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The New York City Police Department needs court-ordered monitoring because more than half a billion dollars in civil penalties and existing oversight groups have failed to reign in police abuses, according to the complaint.
Lawmakers behind the suit include New York City council members Ydanis Rodriguez, Jumaane Williams, Letitia James and Melissa Mark-Viverito. Democratic District Leader Paul Newell, Iraq War veteran Jeffrey McClain, photographer Stephanie Keith, and eight citizen journalists also filed the case.
New York City, Deputy Inspector Edward Winski, the Metropolitan Transit Authority and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are named as defendants.
From the beginning of the movement, Occupy Wall Street has tried to call attention to the number of public areas in New York City that are privately owned, and those owners have allegedly tried to chase the movement off their properties.
Some of these owners named in the suit include realtor Brookfield Office Properties, owner of Zuccotti Park; Mitsui Fudusan America, deed-holder of 100 Williams Street; and J.P. Morgan Chase, which owns One Chase Manhattan Plaza.
The lengthy complaint begins with an overview of the Nov. 15, 2011, raid that dismantled the original Occupy Wall Street encampments at Zuccotti Park, rebranded by protesters as Liberty Square.
Councilman Rodriguez said he arrived at the park near the barricades at 2 a.m. to observe the raid and got tackled by an officer in riot gear. He says that Time Magazine ran a picture of the alleged attack until New York City officials requested that the magazine pull the image.
His colleagues on city council say they, and the press at large, were also restrained from observing the raids.
“NY1 reporter Lindsey Christ said that the aggressiveness with which the police handled reporters on the night of the eviction made it ‘the scariest 20 minutes’ of her life,” the complaint states.
Though Christ told the New York Post that she was put in a chokehold, she is not a party to the lawsuit.
One subsection of the enormous complaint says, “NYPD Misconduct Can Be Examined in Microcosm by Reviewing the NYPD’s Treatment of the Occupy Movement.”
The plaintiffs point to the alleged abuses against the movement as reason the NYPD needs oversight, in general. They say that the Internal Affairs Bureau, Civilian Complaint Review Board and the city’s Commission to Combat Police Corruption have not reached that goal.
Neither have citizen lawsuits, the plaintiffs say.
“The city comptroller’s report shows that in the years 2006 to 2010, tort claims against the NYPD for negligence, excessive force, false arrests, and other civil rights violations have cost the city over Five Hundred Million Dollars ($500,000),” the complaint states.
But not a dime of this money has come out of NYPD coffers, the plaintiffs say.
Instead, the court awards come from money that would otherwise fund health care, education and the arts, according to the lawsuit.
“The failure of the city to hold the NYPD accountable for their bad acts not only destroys the trust between the NYPD and the citizens who give them their authority, but also costs these same citizens education dollars, art dollars, medicare dollars, hospital dollars,” the complaint states.
The plaintiffs say the NYPD needs to appoint an independent monitor to review Occupy Wall Street arrests, investigate the closings of public spaces and review administrative complaints. They also want damages and an injunction preventing the NYPD from keeping fingerprints and photographs of those arrested.
The plaintiffs are represented by Wylie M. Stecklow of Stecklow Cohen & Thompson; Leo Glickman of Stoll, Glickman & Bellina in Brooklyn; and Yetla Kurland of the Kurland Group.