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NYCLU Files Lawsuits Challenging NYPD Practices To Be Used At Republican National Convention

The NYCLU today filed three lawsuits against New York City challenging a series of NYPD practices used at large demonstrations and expected to be used at the Republican National Convention next summer. The lawsuits seek court orders barring use of these practices at large demonstrations, including those that will take place at the Convention. They also seek damages for three individuals injured at the large anti-war demonstration on February 15, 2003.

The NYCLU’s cases challenge five specific NYPD demonstration tactics:

  • the NYPD’s denial of public access to demonstrations through the use of barricades and police officers to close sidewalks and street leading to demonstration sites;
  • the use of horses to forcefully disperse peacefully assembled demonstrators;
  • the use of pens made of interlocking metal barricades to confine demonstrators;
  • the searching of the bags and possessions of people seeking to attend demonstrations and being forced to enter NYPD pens, and
  • the prolonged detention in vans without access to food, water or bathroom facilities of demonstrators charged with minor offenses.

The lawsuits are brought on behalf of the NYCLU and three individuals who attended or sought to attend the February 15 anti-war demonstration. All three individuals and members of the NYCLU will seek to attend large demonstrations at the Convention next August and thus will be subjected to the NYPD practices challenged in the cases filed today.

NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said, “Hundreds of thousands of people will be coming to New York next summer to engage in peaceful protest at the Republican National Convention. They are entitled to be treated with the same respect as those attending the Convention itself, and these lawsuits are designed to assure that the NYPD will fully respect the First Amendment rights of protesters.”

NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn said, “The filing of these cases marks the beginning of the campaign to protect the right to protest at next summer’s Republican National Convention. The NYPD crackdown on peaceful protest that happened at the anti-war protests this past spring cannot be repeated at the Convention.” The NYCLU is bringing these lawsuits in conjunction with the Civil Rights Clinic of New York University’s School of Law. The law students working on the cases are Julie E. Fink, Justin Giovannelli, Megan Higgins, Elizabeth A. Mollar, Hillary Noll, Elizabeth D. Silver, Joseph W. Treolar, and Nicholas N. Viorst.

The plaintiff Jeremiah Gutman is an 80-year-old, civil-rights activist who with his family attempted to attend the February 15, 2003, demonstration in midtown Manhattan against U.S. military action in Iraq. The NYPD prevented Mr. Gutman’s family and tens of thousands of other demonstrators from reaching the demonstration by closing sidewalks and streets leading to the demonstration, by channeling demonstrators onto streets far from the rally site, and by providing inaccurate and conflicting information — or no information — to demonstrators looking for accessible routes to the rally. As a result, Mr. Gutman — like many other people — was trapped in a large crowd simply attempting to reach the demonstration. Then, without warning, police officers drove horses directly into the peaceable crowds. Mr. Gutman, while trying to protect his young son from injury, was knocked to the ground and permanently injured as a result of the NYPD’s actions.

Plaintiff Ann Stauber is a 60-year-old diabetic wheelchair-bound resident of Manhattan who attended the February 15 rally. Like everyone else who was able to reach the rally site, Ms. Stauber was herded by NYPD officials into a metal pen from which she could not exit without permission from the NYPD. Although Ms. Stauber informed NYPD officers that she had an urgent need to use the bathroom and to return home to check her blood sugar, the officers refused to allow her to leave the pen. When she attempted to leave the pen, an officer forcibly prevented her from doing so and in the process broke the controls on her wheelchair.

The plaintiff Jeremy Conrad is a 27-year-old resident of Brooklyn who is now a law student and who also attempted to attend the February 15 demonstration. Mr. Conrad never made it to the demonstration; rather, as a result of police barricades, he and his girlfriend were trapped with a large crowd on Third Avenue, where he was injured when he was stepped on by a horse used by the NYPD to charge the crowd. When Mr. Conrad complained to officers that those in the crowd could not move and risked injury, he was singled out for arrest and maliciously punched and kicked by police officers. Mr. Conrad then was detained for about seven and a half hours in a cage in the back of an unheated and unlit van without food, water, or access to bathroom facilities. Finally, NYPD officers forced Mr. Conrad and others to stand outside Police Headquarters in fourteen-degree weather in handcuffs for approximately an hour and a half before issuing him a summons for a minor offense and releasing him.

  • JEREMY CONRAD v. The CITY OF NEW YORK; RAYMOND W. KELLY, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department; JOHN DOES and JANE DOES 1-10 Officers of the New York City Police Department
  • JEREMIAH GUTMAN and the NEW YORK CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION v. The CITY OF NEW YORK; and RAYMOND KELLY, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department
  • ANN STAUBER and the NEW YORK CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION v. The CITY OF NEW YORK; RAYMOND KELLY, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department; and MARVINA C. LAWRENCE (badge # 31467), an Officer of the New York City Police Department
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