Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
Occupy Protesters Sue City Over Pepper-Spraying Incident
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Two women who were pepper-sprayed during an Occupy Wall Street protest last September are suing the city and NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna. Videos of the incident, which went viral, seized the public's attention and galvanized the Occupy movement in its early days.
The plaintiffs, Jeanne Mansfield and Chelsea Elliott, argue that their constitutional right to peacefully assemble was violated, and that the NYPD should implement better training for officers tasked with handling demonstrations.
The lawsuit was filed last week in federal court. A spokesperson for the city law department said the court documents are still being reviewed. The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
Attorney Aymen Aboushi, who is representing the women, said the 10 docked vacation days that Bologna received as a punishment for pepper spraying the women were inadequate.
"You know, if you were walking down the street, and I walked up to you and I maced you, I'd be charged with assault, menacing harassment and criminal possession of a weapon, in a heartbeat," said Aboushi. "In any county in New York City."
Aboushi said he saw "a much broader pattern" of unprovoked crackdowns against demonstrators, pointing to the Critical Mass bike events and the 2004 Republican Convention, in addition to the Occupy Wall Street protests. The solution, he said, is better training for officers.
"Every time there's a mass uprising or a mass protest, the NYPD seems ill-equipped to deal with it in an effective way. Rank and file police officers, through no fault of their own, don't seem trained as to how to both keep order, while respecting people's constitutional rights," he said.
Aboushi said that the two women also sought reimbursement for medical treatment they had obtained since the incident, but did not seek a financial payout.