A federal judge today ruled that the NYPD engaged in unlawful mass arrests and fingerprinting of hundreds of peaceful protesters during the 2004 Republican National Convention in Manhattan.

In cases brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union and others, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Sullivan declared unlawful the Aug. 31, 2004 mass arrest of more than 200 peaceful protesters near Church and Fulton streets in Lower Manhattan. He also rejected the city’s claim that it had lawfully arrested another nearly 400 people near Union Square, concluding that the plaintiffs were entitled to a trial about that location.

"We’re gratified that the judge rejected the city’s claim that the NYPD has the discretion to engage in mass arrests when officers observe individual unlawful activity," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. "This ruling is a victory for the right to protest – a core democratic principle. It places an important check on the abusive policing tactics used to suppress protests during the 2004 RNC."

Additionally, Judge Sullivan ruled that the NYPD’s mass fingerprinting of people arrested during the RNC protests violated a state law.

"Today the federal court emphatically rejected the city’s claim that it could make mass arrests of protesters," NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, who is lead counsel on the Convention cases, said. "With this ruling, the time has come for the city to put this controversy behind it, to settle the rest of the Convention cases, and to make sure that mass arrests never happen again here."

Today's rulings involve a series of lawsuit the NYCLU and others filed after the 2004 RNC challenging the mass arrest, prolonged detention, and blanket fingerprinting of protesters.