Lawyers have descended upon New York City to file a flurry of lawsuits over the measures taken by the Big Apple to ensure security during the Republican National Convention. Both the New York Times and the AP file reports today describing the mass detention of 1800 protestors as a “Guantanamo” that amounted to cruel and unusual punishment:
The federal lawsuit claims protesters and bystanders alike were rounded up in mass arrests without cause; were kept without access to their lawyers or families at an old bus depot used as a temporary detention center; and were exposed for days to cruel and inhuman conditions.
The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages.
“All that was missing were the orange jumpsuits,” lawyer Jonathan C. Moore said. “Under the guise of terrorism and the fear of terrorism, we are all losing our rights.”
The Times reports an even more hysterical set of allegations:
The suit, filed initially on behalf of 24 people who were among more than 1,800 detained during the convention late this summer, contends that their constitutional rights were violated by arbitrary arrests and by harsh conditions at Pier 57, a former bus repair depot where they were held for as long as 48 hours on minor charges. The suit contends that the pier was contaminated with asbestos and toxic chemicals. …
Several of the people suing the city said that they were still suffering aftereffects. For example, Rebecca Stoneback, a 25-year-old jewelry designer and glass artist from Asbury, N.J., showed several blemishes on her face at a news conference yesterday. She said they erupted, along with a rash on her body, while she was sitting handcuffed on the floor at Pier 57.
Yeah, well, one can’t complain about anything to do with the GOP without tossing a bone to the environmentalists. It sounds to me like such a gross exaggeration that it questions the entire motivation of the lawyers and plaintiffs involved.
First, as one who was there, I can tell you that the areas being protected by the police department were only those adjacent to Madison Square Garden and the Pennsylvania Hotel. Police barricaded the streets surrounding these venues for good reason — they didn’t want anyone parking car bombs in front of them. The police forbade protests in this area because they wanted to focus on security, which seems like a reasonable decision to me. Other areas were ignored by the police, as close as a block away, but if anyone came into the secure zone to protest, they were politely asked to leave, and then arrested if they refused. I saw this myself twice during my stay in New York, and in both cases the protestors started quoting the First Amendment over and over again rather than leave.
The detention story got a lot of play even while we were at the convention. The protestors strategized that they could paralyze the police by simply getting arrested over and over again during the four-day convention, lowering the security for the conventioneers by exhausting police resources in moving people back and forth constantly to the jails. However, as anyone who has actually read the law knows, cities can detain people for quite a while without arraigning them, usually between 48-72 hours in most jurisdictions. New York took advantage of this by waiting until the last moment to arraign protestors — a few of which waited too long, getting a strong rebuke from a municipal judge — in order to discourage the revolving-door strategy.
I’m not sure what people expected after they were arrested. The city had to find a facility they could secure, and if that means using “chain-link fences and razor wire”, as the lawsuit sobs, it just means they were successful in doing so. Jail isn’t supposed to be the Hilton, which is why people should avoid behavior which lands them there. These protestors deliberately got themselves arrested; they should quit being crybabies about getting their wish.