A federal lawsuit filed this week by New York City Council members, Occupy protesters, and journalists asks for a court-appointed federal official to monitor the city police department’s practices regarding First Amendment rights, says the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The suit charges that the department has engaged in “systematic violations” of their First Amendment rights.
The lead plaintiff is Ydanis Rodriguez, a member of the New York City Council. On Nov. 15, when Rodriguez went to observe the police eviction of Zucotti Park but was told he could not proceed past the police line, and was “attacked and arrested” by officers, the suit charges. Plaintiffs include three other council members, John Knefel, an Occupy protester and Internet journalist, and Stephanie Keith, a freelance photojournalist whose work has been published in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Police violation of First Amendment rights has been a long simmering issue in New York, with past efforts to establish oversight met with resistance by the police, said plaintiffs’ attorney Yetta Kurland.