POLITICS

Court Dismisses Occupy Wall Street's Brooklyn Bridge Lawsuit

02/24/2015 06:21 pm ET | Updated Feb 24, 2015
Mario Tama via Getty Images

NEW YORK -- In a surprising about-face, a federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Occupy Wall Street demonstrators against the New York City Police Department over mass arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Many of the more than 700 marchers arrested said they were essentially tricked onto the iconic span by police in October 2011. Last August, three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit allowed the demonstrators' false-arrest lawsuit to proceed. But they reversed themselves in another ruling Monday.

When the hundreds of demonstrators approached the bridge during a march on Oct. 1, 2011, NYPD officers on the scene retreated -- a move that demonstrators say they took as implicit permission to enter the bridge's main deck. The court found, however, that "it cannot be said that the police’s behavior was anything more than -- at best for plaintiffs -- ambiguous, or that a reasonable officer would necessarily have understood that the demonstrators would reasonably interpret the retreat as permission to use the roadway."

The mass arrests, which came in the early days of Occupy Wall Street's monthslong protest against corporate greed, served as an important rallying cry for the movement.

In a statement, the plaintiffs' lawyers at the nonprofit Partnership for Civil Justice Fund decried the 2nd Circuit's "extraordinary" change of heart and said they were considering options for a response.

"The Court has abruptly doubled back on itself to tell the people of New York that if they participate in a police-led and escorted march, peaceful and compliant with all directives from the police, they can be subject to a shocking corralling and mass arrest by the NYPD," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the group's executive director.

New York City, meanwhile, hailed its victory in sidestepping what might have been a significantly expensive lawsuit.

"As we have consistently maintained, the alleged facts and multiple videotapes of the events do not show that the plaintiffs were ever granted permission to march onto and block all vehicular traffic on the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge," city Law Department spokesman Nick Paolucci said in a statement.

Years after the protest movement petered out, New York City is still facing a number of lawsuits over the NYPD's policing of Occupy demonstrations. The city has spent more than $1 million on settlements in lawsuits related to Occupy Wall Street.

The city has recently engaged in settlement talks over the notorious pepper-spraying of protester Kaylee Dedrick, but Ron Kuby, one of Dedrick's attorneys, told HuffPost that no agreement has been reached.

Also on HuffPost:

  • 1
    A New York City police lieutenant swings his baton as he and other police try to stop protesters who breached a barricade to enter Wall Street after an Occupy Wall Street march Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011 in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
  • 2
    In this October 1, 2011 photo, police arrest a protester on New York's Brooklyn Bridge during Saturday's march by Occupy Wall Street. Protesters speaking out against corporate greed and other grievances attempted to walk over the bridge from Manhattan, resulting in the arrest of more than 700 during a tense confrontation with police. The majority of those arrested were given citations for disorderly conduct and were released, police said. (AP Photo/Stephanie Keith)
  • 3
    Police scuffle with members of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement as they march through the streets of the financial district after the deadline for their removal from a park in the financial district was postponed on October 14, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
  • 4
    Members of Occupy Wall clash with police during a celebration march after learning that they can stay on Zuccotti Park in New York, October 14, 2011. Occupy Wall Street protesters and the New York Police Department avoided a potential clash as the real estate company that owns Zuccotti Park, where the protests began, decided to put off its planned cleaning of the square. Amid what was described as a celebratory march by a small group of protesters, scattered clashes with the police broke out, who bulked up their presence at the Zuccotti Park location, which has been home for hundreds of the protesters. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)
  • 5
    Police carry away a participant in a march organized by Occupy Wall Street in New York on Saturday Sept. 24, 2011. Marchers represented various political and economic causes. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
  • 6
    Demonstrators affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street protests confront New York City police officers as they march on the street in the Wall Street area, Friday, Oct. 14, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
  • 7
    Members of Occupy Wall Street are arrested as they clash with police during a celebration march after learning that they can stay on Zuccotti Park in New York, October 14, 2011. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)
  • 8
    Police scuffle with members of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement as they march through the streets of the financial district after the deadline for their removal from a park in the financial district was postponed on October 14, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
  • 9
    A demonstrator affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement yells at a New York City police officer outside Zuccotti Park, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011 in New York. Hundreds of police officers in riot gear before dawn Tuesday raided the New York City park where the Occupy Wall Street protests began, evicting and arresting hundreds of protesters from what has become the epicenter of the worldwide movement protesting corporate greed and economic inequality. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
  • 10
    Occupy Wall Street protestor Alexi Morris is arrested along with at several others in the financial district's Zucotti park, Monday, Oct. 3, 2011, in New York. The arrests of 700 people on Brooklyn Bridge over the weekend fueled the anger of the protesters camping in a Manhattan park and sparked support elsewhere in the country as the campaign entered its third week. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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