A group of 14 Occupy Wall Street protesters filed a lawsuit in federal court this week claiming that the NYPD violated their Constitutional rights by arresting them during an impromptu march near Zuccotti Park in the early hours of New Year's Day. Attorneys for the plaintiffs claim that the NYPD used an "illegal 'trap and arrest' tactic" to detain the protesters with the orange netting that has become an ever-present threat during Occupy events. "Whenever the police unlawfully arrest peaceful protestors, it chips away the people's Constitutional right to protest for redress of grievances," attorney David Thompson stated in a press release.
Nearly 70 protesters were arrested that evening, many for trespassing or the catchall charge of obstructing governmental administration. The suit asks for damages and other forms of relief.
An overlooked development from Montana on election night, a referendum to state that corporations don’t have constitutional rights has unofficially passed by a 75 percent to 25 percent margin. Initiative number 166 stated that “corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights because they are not human beings,” and thus is a blow to the Citizen’s United ruling that helped make this presidential election the most expensive one ever.
Montana has been a real leader in efforts to buck Citizen’s United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that equated money with free speech and allowed corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of money to campaigns through super PACs. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ruling by the Montana Supreme Court that limited political spending in state and local elections earlier this year.
Montana and Colorado are the first states to endorse an amendment through statewide votes. Seven other states -- Hawaii, New Mexico, Vermont, Rhode Island, California, Massachusetts and New Jersey -- acted through their legislatures, which passed resolutions calling for an amendment. In two more states, Connecticut and Maryland, majorities of the legislatures signed letters to Congress calling for an amendment.
These votes reflect an extraordinary level of public support for overruling Citizens United, which has also been found repeatedly in national polling, most recently an Associated Press poll found that 83 percent of Americans favor limits on the amount of money corporations, unions, and other organizations can spend on our elections. That's more than 8 in 10 Americans.
Video: A young girl suffers a seizure after NYPD raid Zuccotti Park on March 17, 2012.
A new report by the Protest and Assembly Rights Project, which includes civil liberties experts from law clinics at NYU, Fordham, Harvard, and Stanford, has determined what anyone paying attention already knows: The NYPD went way overboard with seemingly random protesters, and media personnel (Even innocent bystanders in multiple instances) during Occupy Wall Street. But the group's findings, compiled in Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street, detail many incidents beyond the extreme few that got the most media play, counting 130 examples of extreme force in all, on top of "a complex mapping of protest suppression."
Most of the police misconduct cited in the report comes from video footage, reputable journalists, legal observers, and firsthand accounts from authors of the study. Here are but a few:
One widely reported incident occurred on March 17, when a woman appeared to suffer a
seizure when arrested. Numerous videos show her convulsing on the ground while handcuffed. One witness described feeling “dumbfounded” as he watched her head bang against the ground repeatedly as officers did nothing; he said that he called out repeatedly for the officers to place something under head. Individuals on the scene who said that they were EMTs and offered to assist were not permitted to do so by police. Estimates varied asto the length of time it took for an ambulance to arrive, ranging from 15 to 20 minutes.
While the general legal obligation of officers to secure timely medical assistance is clear, this obligation is heightened where officers plan a major and aggressive law-enforcement operation to a large number of protesters from an area.
This injury I don't recall hearing about at all:
Then on May 30, during a student march, a member of the Research Team witnessed a particularly violent arrest. A protester was observed lying on the ground, with a number of officers standing near. The protester stated that his shoulder had just been dislocated; the officers stated that they had called an ambulance, and were not going to handcuff the protester because of his injury. However, moments later, a second group of officers rushed in and aggressively handcuffed the protester. He screamed out in pain repeatedly and told the officers about his injury, asking them to be gentle. The officers responded by stating the he was “a liar,” and they repeatedly intentionally pushed and pulled his injured shoulder. When EMTs did subsequently arrive, they inspected his shoulder, immediately removed the handcuffs, and put him in an ambulance for treatment. The individual’s lawyer later stated that the protester in fact had suffered a broken clavicle, an extremely painful and serious injury.
There's also a section on weapons use, including batons, scooters, and pepper spray, which was used in seven separate cases, according to the report.
The report concludes that the department could possibly use an inspector general (as has been suggested repeatedly) and maybe even a city review of the police tactics used throughout the protests. If not, the report suggests that the Department of Justice might be interested in their findings. However, thus far, there's been "near-complete impunity for alleged abuses."
The 99% Get Money Out campaign echoes two of the strongest messages emanating from the Occupy Movement: a vast majority of us know many things in this country need to change, and those changes can only happen once our elected leaders represent our needs. It’s time to get corporate money and interests out of politics.
The campaign features real people of all ages, professions and political ideologies who were asked to voice their concerns and discuss solutions to the nation’s most pressing issues: the economy, jobs, housing, education and preserving our constitutional rights. The campaign was developed by executive producer Mike Fleiss ("The Bachelor"), producer Anke Thommen (Outkast’s "Hey Ya") and director Sandrine Orabona (Michael Jackson’s "This Is It"). It was filmed by cinematographer Russell Carpenter ("Titanic," "Charlie's Angels") and had the support of the National Nurses Union and many other industry professionals.
Thirteen students attending six Cal State University campuses have announced that they will begin a hunger strike on Wednesday, and citing the failure of traditional routes to result in any dialogue to address their concerns about tuition and other issues.
Members of Students for Quality Education said Friday that the hunger strike will begin Wednesday and involve 13 students at the Dominguez Hills, Fullerton, Long Beach, Northridge, Sacramento and San Bernardino campuses.
In addition to a five-year tuition freeze and administrative pay cuts, students are calling for more free speech rights on campus and the elimination of housing and car allowances for the system’s 23 campus presidents.
Speaking during a telephone news conference, several of the students said they decided on the fast after Chancellor Charles Reed and Board of Trustees Chairman A. Robert Linscheid failed to meet with them or adequately respond to their concerns.
“We’ve tried pretty much everything, and they just ignore us,” said Donnie Bessom, 27, a student at Cal State Long Beach. “We’ve talked to state legislators, written petitions, mobilized people on campus. The next step for us is in the tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience. They keep raising salaries and have those other luxuries, and we thought the symbolic nature of a hunger strike was appropriate to the crisis.”