After nearly nine years of litigation, lawyers for the city of Chicago on Thursday agreed to settle a lawsuit brought on by anti-war protesters for $6.2 million.
More than 800 plaintiffs were part of the class action suit against the city, which claimed that hundreds of people were arrested without being told by police to disperse during a protest against the Iraq war in 2003. Last year, federal appellate Justice Richard Posner ruled that police did not have the right to arrest peaceful protesters "merely because they do not have a permit," the People's Law Office said in a statement.
As the Chicago Tribune reports, Posner's ruling was bad news for the city:
The city's defense in the case was weakened last year when federal appellate Justice Richard Posner ruled the arrests were unjustified because police allowed the massive demonstration to take place without a permit, but then decided to arrest people for participating without giving them a clear order that it was time to disperse.
Hundreds of people became trapped by police at Chicago and Michigan avenues. Confused demonstrators who said they just wanted to go home were instead arrested and held overnight. All of the arrest charges were later dismissed in court, Posner noted.
The settlement comes as protesters gear up for a fight with the city over the upcoming NATO and G8 summits. Some activists claim that new protest rules Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel put in place with stifle their rights to free speech.
"I hope it sends a message that they need to treat us like citizens and not combatants," Cheryl Angelaccio, one of the protestors arrested in the Iraq War protest, told ABC Chicago.
Lawyers for the protesters told ABC that the settlement sends a message that police must allow people to exercise their constitutional rights.
"This case is important not only to the class members and their attorneys, but also for civil liberties, as it scores a significant victory for the right to demonstrate in Chicago," the Chicago Coalition Against War & Racism said in a statement. "This substantial settlement will send an unequivocal message to the City of Chicago and its police department that they must respect the right to free speech and assembly."
Those who were arrested, charged and detained could get up to $15,000 from the settlement.
The city has already paid more than $300,000 to people who sued for police brutality on the night of the 2003 protest, CCAWR reports.
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