Wednesday, April 10, 2013
$366,700 settlement agreed in seizure of possessions of Occupy Wall Street may presage outcome of (de) Occupy trial in Honolulu
by Larry Geller
New York City police raided the Occupy Wall Street encampment on November 15, 2011, seizing and destroying books and other property belonging to the demonstrators. Now New York taxpayers will have to foot the bill for a $366,700 settlement filed yesterday in the federal court of the Southern District of New York.
The New York case has similarities to the federal case filed in Honolulu on behalf of (de) Occupy demonstrators repeatedly raided by City workers and Honolulu police.
Here is Democracy Now’s brief summary of the settlement from their broadcast this morning:
NYC to Pay Over $350,000 for Damage in Occupy Wall Street Raid
New York City has agreed to pay more than $350,000 for damage to the property of Occupy Wall Street protesters when police raided their encampment in November 2011. The late-night raid brought the Zuccotti Park encampment to an end after capturing global attention for two months. Around $50,000 will cover the destruction of thousands of books in the Occupy Wall Street library. Another $75,000 will compensate protesters for lost and damaged computers and broadcast gear.
[Democracy Now headlines, 4/10/2013 ]
The settlement does not admit wrongdoing, but it does contain the following language:
Defendants acknowledge and believe it unfortunate that, during the course of clearing Zuccotti Park on November 15, 2011, books were damaged so as to render them unusable, and additional books are unaccounted for. Defendants further acknowledge and believe it unfortunate that certain library furnishings and equipment likewise were damaged so as to render them unusable, and other library furnishings and equipment may be unaccounted for.
Plaintiffs and Defendants recognize that when a person's property is removed by the City it is important that the City exercise due care and adhere to established procedures in order to protect the legal rights of the property owners.
The New York case resembles the case filed by (de)Occupy in Honolulu. For example, this paragraph from the New York complaint:
Defendants failed to train and supervise their officials, employees and agents, including John Doe and Richard Roe et al.y so as to prevent the seizure and destruction of Plaintiffs' property, which resulted in the violation of the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States and 42 U.S.C § 1983, and the Constitution and laws of New York State.
In the (de) Occupy complaint the claims are in different sections of the document:
Defendants' seizures of Plaintiffs' property as set forth above constitute unreasonable seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Defendants' destruction of Plaintiffs' property and/or failure to return or to return the property in a usable condition without due process of law constitute violations of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Defendants actions constitute a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution as Defendants have interfered with and chilled speech and activities protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Since the NY case was settled and not tried, presumably there is no record that could be of use in the Honolulu case.
Still, the Honolulu City Council would appear to risk wasting a great deal of taxpayer money if it passes a contemplated new ordinance allowing immediate seizure of property belonging to homeless residents of the city. If HPD acted under the proposed new ordinance, it could be found to be simply violating (de) Occupy protesters’ rights in a more accelerated pace, denying them any due process rights whatsoever.
New York police have used illegal tactics before, in particular during demonstrations, and the city has had to pay demonstrators as a result. Most likely, given that demonstrably illegal activities by NYPD haven’t stopped, the city is content to pay penalties as a “cost of doing business.”
Perhaps New York can afford to do that, but Honolulu taxpayers may not agree to let the City do the same.
Below are downloadable copies of the Occupy Wall Street complaint and settlement agreement. These are OCR copies, not official copies, and may contain errors. Do not rely on these documents.
Uhh this is a good education that one must keep receipts and records under any circumstances.
I am glad they got compensated (something) not much, adrop in the Wall St bucket.