A New York judge angrily ordered the release of more than 550 Republican convention protesters who had been detained without seeing a judge – some for as long as 60 hours, the New York Times reports. When not all the protesters had been released by 6 p.m. yesterday, he held the city in contempt and ordered a fine of $1,000 for each person still held. Judge John Cataldo of the trial-level Supreme Court demanded at a noon hearing that the city immediately process the demonstrators. The city’s corporation counsel, Michael Cardozo, said that “the judge was wrong not to permit the city sufficient time to complete the processing of arrestees. The release of those individuals is unfortunate to say the least.” A hearing is expected next week to determine the amount of the fine against the city.
The abrupt release of detainees and the threat of tens of thousands of dollars in fines came after more than 1,000 protesters were swept off the streets Tuesday night and were sent in handcuffs into the city’s criminal justice system. The city said it had cleared court dockets and opened additional courtrooms to handle the expected flood of protesters, but on Wednesday only a trickle of those arrested the night before appeared in court. Defense lawyers and protesters claimed the police were using long detentions as a tactic to keep the streets clear until the convention was over. “We couldn’t get everyone processed as quickly as we liked,” said Cardozo.