Four New York City Council members sued the city over the handling of Occupy Wall Street protesters, claiming the police used excessive force and should be subject to an outside monitor.
The Police Department made false arrests and violated free- speech rights of protesters and journalists last year, according to a complaint filed today in Manhattan federal court by the council members and 11 others. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Brookfield Office Properties and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are among the defendants.
The Occupy movement in New York has held demonstrations and marches since Nov. 15, when police ousted hundreds of protesters from Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, where they had camped since Sept. 17. Protesters spread an anti-greed message, calling attention to what they say are abuses of power and wealth.
“Through unlawful exercises of public power and misapplication of law, the NYPD has sought to prevent and has prevented plaintiffs and other citizens from exercising certain constitutional rights, including the right to public assembly and expressive speech,” according to the complaint.
The City Council members are Jumaane Williams, Letitia James, Ydanis Rodriguez and Melissa Mark-Viverito. The council has 51 members. Bloomberg, the mayor, is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
Kate Ahlers, a spokeswoman for New York’s Law Department, said the city hasn’t been served with the complaint and will review it thoroughly. Jennifer Zuccarelli, a spokeswoman for JPMorgan Chase, declined to comment in an e-mail.
Brookfield owns Zuccotti Park, which is considered a public space. Melissa Coley, a spokeswoman, declined to comment.
Occupy Wall Street demonstrators were denied access to One Chase Manhattan Plaza, which “has traditionally been used as a public space for public speech,” according to the complaint.
On Oct. 12, demonstrators sought to give a large symbolic check to JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, representing tax breaks he would get in New York state, according to the complaint. Police barricades and officers denied them access to the plaza, according to the complaint.
Occupy Wall Street demonstrators plan marches around the globe tomorrow, saying they hope the coordinated events will mark a spring resurgence of the movement after a quiet winter.
In a separate federal court lawsuit, five demonstrators today sued city Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and various officers for detaining them in an interlocking metal barricade during a protest on Nov. 30. About 100 people demonstrated in front of a Sheraton Hotel where President Barack Obama attended a fundraiser, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs, who asked that the case be certified as class-action suit, claim protesters couldn’t leave for almost two hours and were “never charged with any violation, misdemeanor or crime,” Phoebe Berg and others claimed.
The police violated their rights to freedom of speech, association and assembly, and freedom from unreasonable seizure, according to the complaint. The group asked for an order barring the NYPD from the unlawful use of barricades.
The cases are Rodriguez v. Winski, 12-cv-3389, and Berg v. Kelly, 12-cv-3391, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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