The New York Civil Liberties Union sued New York City in federal court yesterday, charging that the Police Department subjected protesters during the Republican National Convention to wrongful arrest, improper fingerprinting, and lengthy, harrowing detention, the New York Times reports. Two lawsuits describe marchers suddenly swept into orange nets, languishing on buses in tight handcuffs without medical attention, and one woman in convulsions after being corralled into a mass arrest as she walked to work. The suits seek unspecified damages and ask the court to declare the arrest and detention tactics illegal to prevent the city from using them again. Civil liberties lawyers expressed concern that the police were improperly building a fingerprint database of people charged with minor offenses.
City officials called those accusations false and maintained that they did nothing wrong in policing or detaining the protesters. They argued that the arrests were a justifiable response to disruptive protests that contrasted with an earlier mass demonstration that was largely peaceful and resulted in few complaints of police misconduct. “One of the largest demonstrations in the history of American political conventions was overwhelmingly peaceful and orderly with exemplary conduct by both participants and police alike,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said. “Those who insisted on breaking the law a few days later now complain because they faced the normal consequences of unlawful conduct.” Kelly said the civil liberties group “lied when it said today that the N.Y.P.D. used arrests ‘as an excuse to fingerprint political activists.’ ”