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Occupy Wall Street Lawsuit Dismissed By NY Judge

Occupy Wall Street Lawsuit Dismissed By NY Judge

On Thursday, a New York judge approved a lawsuit by Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters seeking compensation for mass arrests of 700 people during a protest last year. The written ruling by judge Red Rakoff did, however, invalidate any potential lawsuits against the City of New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, limiting legal action to only include suits against individual NYPD officers. While OWS demonstrations have diminished considerably in recent months, the ruling is considered a victory going forward for the movement.

Brooklyn Bridge incident
On October 1, 2011, during the nascent stages of the Occupy Movement, several hundred protesters decided to march across the Brooklyn Bridge as part of demonstrations calling for financial regulatory reform. The protesters, claiming the action was sanctioned by the NYPD, were confronted and eventually arrested for unlawfully occupying the bridge. OWS claimed the 700 arrested were given conflicting and misleading information from police that led to their entrapment. Shortly after the incident, on October 4, OWS activists filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for the incident.
In his ruling, Judge Rakoff said, “While initially, the police officers congregated at the entrance to the bridge’s vehicular roadway, thus effectively blocking the demonstrators from proceeding further, the officers then turned and started walking away from the demonstrators and onto the roadway – an implicit invitation to follow.”
Plaintiffs in the case feel some vindication by Rakoff’s ruling. However, the decision to dismiss the possibility of charges against Michael Bloomberg and Ray Kelly is concerning to activists claiming that city officials have systematically tried to eradicate OWS since the movement’s inception. The Washington D.C.-based Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) has represented the case. According its website, the PCJF “is a non-profit legal and educational organization that engages in complex constitutional rights litigation.”
The Occupy Movement has faltered in recent months, with many calling the once robust protest movement nearly defunct. Fringe, or unaffiliated members subscribing to confrontational and sometimes violent tactics have tarnished the image of the largely peaceful movement. On May 1 federal agents arrested several self-described anarchists planning to blow the Cleveland bridge. The individuals had previously attended Occupy events.
Additionally, funding has dried up for OWS following their November 15 eviction from Zuccotti Park, the nucleus of the leaderless movement. In the fall of 2011, the group boasted nearly $750,000 raised from a myriad of sympathetic donors. Now, according to a recent Huffington Post article, the Occupy New York City general fund has dwindled to a mere $31,000.
Recent public opinion polling shows a precipitous drop in popularity for the movement, with a joint NBC-Wall Street Journal Poll showing 71 percent of Americans disapproving of OWS. Previously, 54 percent of Americans held a favorable opinion of OWS according to a Time magazine poll conducted in the fall of 2011. The same poll revealed 86 percent of Americans believed that Wall Street and lobbyists held too much power in Washington.

Occupy National Gathering
Nonetheless, a committed group of activists pushes on with attempts to reform the practices of Wall Street. Although the formal encampments no longer exist, activists from 61 cities representing the former encampments have endorsed an Occupy National Gathering in Philadelphia, Penn.
The June 30-July 4 event is expected to bring a bevy of activists to Philadelphia for direct actions and marches. However, given the setbacks and lack of a unified message, the meeting is expected to also be a reflective moment for attendees to network and craft a more cohesive platform going forward.
Could the national gathering be the swan song for the Occupy movement? What transpires in Philadelphia could be a harbinger of things to come.

source: MPN


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