|The NYPD wants to return to the "old way" of doing things. (Photo provided by Wikimedia Commons)|
New York City Cops Seek Federal Court Approval to Mass Arrest Protesters Without Warning
A legal fight from Occupy resurfaces amid 2014's police brutality protests.
By Steven Rosenfeld
As New York Mayor Bill de Blasio takes high-profile steps to try to curtail abusive policing—sympathizing with protesters over Eric Garner’s death and vowing to reform the notorious Rikers Island prison—the city’s Law Department is going back to federal court to seek new authority to make mass arrests at protests.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has agreed to meet in full to reconsider an August ruling that sided with protesters and chastized the New York Police Department for the way it herded and arrested 700 Occupy protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge in fall 2011. It concluded that the cops violated the protesters' constitutional rights and the police did not have “cause” to arrest them.
“This decision will frustrate, not further, the work of police attempting to facilitate peaceful demonstrations while ensuring both the safety of demonstrators and those among whom demonstrations are staged,” the city’s rehearing brief argued.
Attorneys representing the protesters say the NYPD seeks renewed power to make mass arrests after entrapping protesters, as was the case in October 2011, when police walked calmly beside Occupy marchers from lower Manhattan onto the bridge. As a majority on the lower Appeals Court panel noted, most protesters did not hear any arrest warning from police and felt they were led by cops onto the Brooklyn Bridge to continue their march.
“This is the most significant and most defining legal case on protesters’ rights in the last 40 years, since the mass arrests of May Day 1970,” said Carl Messineo, Partnership for Civil Justice Fund legal director, which represented the protesters. “Mayor de Blasio seeks the authority to arrest today’s protesters in the same manner Mayor Bloomberg falsely arrested Occupy Wall Street protesters by the hundreds.”