Cities That Raided #OWS Camps Now Facing Lawsuits
Most major Occupy encampments have been dispersed, but they live on in a flurry of lawsuits in which protesters are asserting their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly and challenging authorities’ mass arrests and use of force to break up tent cities.
Lawyers representing protesters have filed lawsuits — or are planning them — in state and federal courts from coast to coast, challenging eviction orders and what they call heavy-handed police tactics and the banning of demonstrators from public properties.
Some say the fundamental right of protest has been criminalized in places, with protesters facing arrest and charges while doing nothing more than exercising protected rights to demonstrate.
In Austin, Texas, this week, a federal judge has been hearing the case of two Occupy protesters who were arrested and later barred from City Hall under a policy their attorneys call overly broad and say amounts to a ban on speech. The Texas Civil Rights Project says around 106 people have been banned since the protests began, in some cases for up to a year. The policy says a criminal trespass notice may be issued for “unreasonably disruptive” conduct.
Yvette Felarca is among those suing campus police and administration officials at the University of California, Berkeley, after officers forcefully dispersed a group of Occupy protesters and others rallying for public education last month.
I wrote about a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Northern California against the Oakland Police Department here. Since then, the judge hearing the case refused to grant a temporary restraining order as ACLU requested, but the case is proceeding.