Occupy Philly protesters sue city over 2011 arrests

A federal lawsuit claims the protesters' rights of free speech and assembly were violated when they were arrested Nov. 30, 2011, after a raid on Dilworth Plaza.
A federal lawsuit claims the protesters' rights of free speech and assembly were violated when they were arrested Nov. 30, 2011, after a raid on Dilworth Plaza.
Posted: November 15, 2013

IT WAS NEARLY two years ago that the Occupy Philadelphia protests crash-landed in predawn darkness on a 15th Street sidewalk, where city cops who'd raided the City Hall encampment herded up and arrested the final holdouts.

Now, 26 of the Occupy protesters are fighting back.

The demonstrators filed a federal lawsuit yesterday accusing the city, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and at least 10 other cops or deputies of falsely arresting them and violating their civil rights of free speech and assembly.

The lawsuit comes after 31 of the protesters arrested in the early morning of Nov. 30, 2011, had been acquitted of all charges by a Municipal Court judge. She found last year that the demonstrators had not committed disorderly conduct and had obeyed police orders to move when they were busted.

"The plaintiffs are American heroes who effectively fought against economic inequality for the 99 percent - and whose thanks from the government was this bogus arrest," said Lawrence Krasner, a civil-rights lawyer who is representing the Occupy group.

"We haven't seen it yet, so we don't have any comment on it," City Solicitor Shelley Smith said of the suit, filed late yesterday.

One of the more active of scores of protest encampments that arose in fall 2011 to protest income inequality and related issues, Occupy Philadelphia camped out in Dilworth Plaza adjacent to City Hall for 55 days. The city shut down the camp - which numbered several hundred Occupiers at the peak - to make room for renovation work.

After police raided the Dilworth site on Nov. 30, 2011, cops - including mounted officers - followed Occupy protesters for several hours and finally arrested the group just before 5 a.m. on 15th Street near Callowhill, claiming the demonstrators would snarl rush-hour traffic.

Since then, other Occupy members who were arrested over the 55 days - including 12 busted at a sit-in at a Wells Fargo branch lobby in Center City - have been found not guilty.

Krasner said the 26 plaintiffs are seeking economic damages for their allegedly false arrest, as well as changes in city policy to allow protesters to exercise their right of free assembly in the future. The group is also represented by Lloyd Long and Paul Hetznecker.


On Twitter: @Will_Bunch

Blog: ph.ly/Attytood.com

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