Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Anti-war Activists Win $2 Million Settlement From New York CIty


CONTACT: Alison Roh Park, 212.614.6480,
Shonna Carter, Riptide Communications, 212.260.5000


Major Victory for Free Speech Rights

August 19, 2008, New York – A group of 52 local activists
today announced a $2 million settlement in their lawsuit
against the City of New York. The activists were illegally
arrested on April 7, 2003 while protesting against the
Iraq war in front of a military contractor's offices in
midtown. The settlement in Kunstler et al v. New York
City follows the dismissal in 2003 of all criminal charges
brought against these individuals and four costly years of
delays by the City in negotiating an end to the civil

“The New York Police Department violated core
constitutional rights when it arrested a group of peaceful
demonstrators who were lawfully protesting against the
commencement of the Iraq war and those who stood to profit
from it,” notes Sarah Netburn, attorney with Emery Celli
Brinkerhoff Abady LLP, which handled the civil rights case
along with the Center for Constitutional Rights. “We are
gratified by the City’s decision to compensate these
individuals whose targeted arrests were without probable
cause and intended to quell future protest in New York
City. This lawsuit, and this settlement, vindicates our
clients’ rights to assemble and speak their mind free from
the fear that they will be punished for their views.”

Attorneys and plaintiffs noted, however, that the City's
decision to drag the case out is part of a long and
disturbing pattern by which it attempts to “wear down”
plaintiffs to avoid political damage, even at huge expense
of tax dollars and City resources. “My question is, why
did the NYPD send over 100 police in riot gear, along with
vehicles to block the street and disrupt the flow of
morning rush hour traffic, all to stop a legal, peaceful
protest, when there are far more important matters they
could be pursuing? And, why did they fight us in court so
doggedly when they knew the evidence proved that we were
arrested without any police orders to leave?” asked Ahmad
Shirazi, a film editor and grandfather and one of the
plaintiffs in the case.

An NYPD videotape of the demonstration depicts a group of
demonstrators lined along the sidewalk of West 56th Street
between 5th and 6th Avenues – with ample space for
pedestrians – who were arrested without any police warning
or opportunity to leave. The police arrested 94 people
that day.

The arrests took place outside the offices of the Carlyle
Group, an investment firm with ties to the Bush family and
an extensive portfolio of holdings in the military-defense
sector. The police tactics used that day became the model
used by the NYPD during the 2004 Republican National
Convention held in New York.

At that event, thousands of activists were illegally
arrested, jailed and mistreated. Lawsuits related to the
police conduct at the RNC are still winding their way
through the courts. NYPD officials are now consulting with
police departments in Denver and Minneapolis on their
plans for the 2008 Democratic and Republican Conventions.

“We hope our victory helps convince the City to stop
violating people's rights as a matter of policy and stop
wasting taxpayers' money doing so,” said Sarah Kunstler,
an attorney and filmmaker who is the daughter of the late
William Kunstler, noted attorney and civil rights
champion. Ms. Kunstler was acquitted after a trial of all
criminal charges brought against her. “It should also
serve as a reminder that Washington's illegal war in
Afghanistan and Iraq is also being fought at home –
against its own citizens and in the name of war profiteers
like Carlyle and Halliburton. We intend to continue our
resistance until this stops.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to
advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the
United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who
represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a
non-profit legal and educational organization committed to
the creative use of law as a positive force for social

For more information on CCR’s work visit our
website at

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