January 15, 2014, ABC News/Associated Press
New York City has agreed to pay $18 million to settle dozens of lawsuits filed by protesters, journalists and bystanders who said they were wrongly arrested at the 2004 Republican National Convention and held for hours in makeshift holding cells. The settlement, which must be approved by a federal judge, would end nearly a decade of legal wrangling over more than 1,800 arrests, mostly on charges of disorderly conduct or parading without a permit. Hundreds sued, saying they were illegally arrested by an overzealous police department. Nearly all the arrests were dismissed by the court or the defendants acquitted. Lawyers with the New York Civil Liberties Union had previously asked the judge hearing case to conclude that police didn’t have probable cause to make mass arrests during the convention, at which President George W. Bush was nominated for another term. “This historic settlement sends a clear message,” said NYCLU attorney Chris Dunn. “We will not allow the police to trample on the First Amendment rights of protesters.” Sarah Coburn, 30, said her arrest at the convention inspired her to become an attorney to fight for the civil rights of others. She was 20 at the time, and was held for 30 hours before she was released. She’s now a public defender. “It was awful to be subjected to those conditions,” she said. “I want to make sure no one else has to be.”
Note: For more on government assaults on civil liberties, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.