Free-speech rights were not violated, but the blanket arrest of 147 people in Seattle during the 1999 World Trade Organization tumult was still unconstitutional, and the city should be held liable, says a federal jury verdict reported by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “The key point, the lesson learned, is you cannot arrest peaceful protesters here in Seattle or anywhere else in the country,” said Kenneth Hankin, lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit. The decision moves the lawsuit to a damages phase — and a possible multimillion-dollar award against the city.
Lawyers for the city will ask a federal appeals court to dismiss the case, arguing that the split verdict shows that jurors were confused by their instructions. “The important part is that this is still a great city to protest in,” said Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel, who was in charge of officers during the December 1999 WTO meeting. In a pretrial ruling, Judge Marsha Pechman held that the arrests were illegal because they were made without probable cause.