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The Police State Marches On: Protestors Win in 2004 RNC Mass Arrest Case in NYC

 

On the morning of the big march through midtown Manhattan on the opening day of the Republican National Convention in New York City in 2004, I and a few friends were having breakfast at a little coffee shop near 96th Street on the Upper West Side. We had a few homemade signs and were clearly headed for a political action. Across from us were three New York City cops, carrying riot helmets, having their breakfast. They were clearly headed to the same place we were.

After we had finished our breakfasts, we all headed for the subway -- the cops and us. We ended up seated across from each other on a downtown train.

Each of the cops had a bag. I asked one of them what he had in the bag. He reached in and pulled up a big fistful of white nylon handcuff straps of the kind favored by police for mass arrests -- the kind made of almost unbreakable plastic straps with slip-tight ridges on them so that the arresting officer can yank it tight so that the only way to remove it is to cut it off.

“I see you’re prepared for a lot of arrests,” I said.

“Yeah,” he replied. “We’re ready for you!”

“Well, don’t arrest us when you see us!” I said.

The officer smiled.

As it turns out, none of us was arrested, but hundreds of marchers were. The bags of cuffs those officers were carrying makes it clear that was the city’s intention from the outset.
 
 Despite lawsuits the policy continuesNYPD mass arrests in 2004 at the RNC and in 2011 at Occupy Wall Street: Despite lawsuits the policy continues

 

Yesterday, eight years after that march, a federal judge ruled that the mass arrests, made in sweeps by the police, were illegal, violating the probable cause requirement inherent in the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

As Judge Richard J. Sullivan wrote in a 32-page opinion, “An individual;s participation in a lawbreaking group may, in appropriate circumstances, be strong circumstantial evidence of that individual’s own illegal conduct,” but no matter the circumstances, an arresting officer must believe that every individual arrested personally violated the law. Nothing short of such a finding can justify arrest. The Fourth Amendment does not recognize built by association.”

The ruling was not a complete win. Judge Sullivan rejected the claim by plaintiffs in the false-arrest lawsuit that their First Amendment rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom to seek redress for grievances had been violated by the mass arrests, but lawyers for the plaintiffs said it was nonetheless a strong blow against the increasingly common police tactic of mass arrests of protesters in demonstrations. Christopher T. Dunn, a lawyer with the New York Civil Liberties Union, who represented some of the victims of the arrests, said the judge, in his ruling, had “emphatically rejected the city’s claim that it could make mass arrests of protestors.”



story | by Dr. Radut