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Legal Observers

Over 100 Protesters, Legal Observers To Sue NYPD Over Violent Arrests

More than 100 protesters and legal observers trapped by police in the NYPD’s violent ambush of a peaceful march in the Bronx earlier this summer are now planning to sue the city, after Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to discipline any of the officers involved in the mass arrest. At least 107 people have filed notices of claim with the city indicating their intent to sue over the police department’s actions in Mott Haven on June 4th, Gothamist has learned. The bulk of the notices were delivered this week, which marked 90 days since the night of the incident, the cutoff for initiating legal action.

City Bar Calls For Investigation Following Arrests Of Legal Observers

The New York City Bar Association on Wednesday called on Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York Police Department to “immediately investigate” the alleged targeting of nine legal observers earlier this month during a protest against police brutality in the Bronx. In a statement, the City Bar said it was “gravely concerned” by what it called “concerted efforts” in New York, and across the country, to interfere with the work of observers at mass demonstrations protesting systemic racism and police killings of black Americans. The City Bar specifically cited reports that legal observers associated with the National Lawyers Guild had been pulled out of a crowd in the Bronx, restrained with zip-tie cuffs and detained for 20 minutes. Some officers, the City Bar said, had “illegally accessed” the observers’ privileged documents and took down their personal information, while claiming not to know the function they were serving at the protests.

NYPD Accused Of Deliberately Targeting Legal Observers

On Thursday evening before curfew, Rex Santus was standing alone on a quiet Mott Haven street corner when he caught the attention of NYPD officers passing in an unmarked minivan. As eight officers surrounded him, the 28-year-old CUNY law student identified himself as a legal observer with the National Lawyers Guild, and explained his intention to monitor a nearby protest against racist police brutality. The officers accused him of “illegal counter-surveillance against police,” Santus said. They seized his notebook, reading from it and mocking him for writing that some cops had obscured their badge numbers. As the officers feigned ignorance about the role of legal observers, Santus recalled, an apparent warning blared from their police radios: “A lot of LOs out tonight.”
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