NYPD Sued over Rule on Protest Arrests
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NYPD is sued over rule on protest arrests
Thursday, May 31, 2001
By KAREN MATTHEWS
The Associated Press
NEW YORK -- A Police Department policy of arresting
demonstrators for minor offenses at protests and requiring
that they spend the night in jail is unconstitutional,
according to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday by the New
York Civil Liberties Union.
"Once again the Giuliani administration has demonstrated to
us that it cannot be accused of being soft on freedom of
speech," Donna Lieberman, interim executive director of the
civil liberties union, said at a news conference announcing
the suit's filing.
Lieberman called the police policy a "flagrant violation of
the First Amendment."
Police officials said the practice began informally in early
1999, after the fatal police shooting of Amadou Diallo
prompted daily protests outside police headquarters.
A message sent this month to police commanders ordered that
no summonses or desk appearance tickets should be issued for
offenses committed at demonstrations or similar events with
more than 20 participants, according to a published report.
In the past, those arrested for misdemeanors such as
disorderly conduct or obstructing governmental
administration would get a summons to appear in court at a
later date, and would generally be allowed to leave after
"This policy, by its express terms, singles out
demonstrators and that's a tragedy in the city of New York,"
Christopher Dunn, a lawyer for the NYCLU, said at the news
The suit names the city and the Police Department, and
argues that the policy violates the First and Fourth
amendments. In addition to barring enforcement of the
policy, the suit seeks damages for two people arrested at
Police Lt. Eric Adams, of the group 100 Blacks in Law
Enforcement Who Care, called the policy an "outdated,
old-fashioned intimidation tactic."
Lieberman said the NYCLU has won 23 of the 29 First
Amendment lawsuits it has brought against the city during
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's tenure.
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