After nearly a decade of legal wrangling, the city has agreed to settle outstanding lawsuits filed by protesters and others who say they were wrongly arrested outside the Republican National Convention in 2004. The $18 million payout will be split between about 1,600 plaintiffs and cover their legal fees. The average payout per individual will be around $6,400.
The mass arrests around the convention resulted in more than 1,800 people being swept up — many of them held for days. At a Wednesday press conference, one of the plaintiffs, Deirdre MacNamara, said she wasn't protesting but was on her way to get a milkshake. "So if this average person can get arrested walking down the street and be held for 50 hours, we should all be a little afraid," said MacNamara.
The city isn't admitting to any wrongdoing. An attorney for the city law department says the NYPD met its overall goal during the RNC of facilitating First Amendment activity to the greatest extent possible, while keeping the city safe. The department also noted that an effort by the plaintiffs to force changes in the way the NYPD polices large-scale events was "rejected."
The plaintiffs' attorneys called the deal "historic," but one of the plaintiffs, Ed Hedermann, said money doesn't fix everything.
"I'd readily give up any settlement money in exchange for an apology from the city and the police, the release of un-edited, un-redacted spying notes of our meetings and a promise never again to make preemptive arrests of peaceful demonstrators," said Hedermann.