NEW YORK (TIP): New York City has agreed to pay a total of $332,500 to six Occupy Wall Street protesters who said the police unjustly blasted them with pepper spray four years ago in an episode that helped propel the movement into the spotlight.
The settlements, reached in recent weeks, range from $52,500 to $60,000 per person in cases arising from the Occupy movement’s early days in September 2011. They are among a number of payouts the city has approved over its handling of the protests against economic inequality; it has fought other claims.
The city’s Law Department said on Monday that the latest settlements were in the city’s best interest. The Police Department said in a statement that it had not altered its pepper spray guidelines. Officers can use the chemical for purposes including protection, but not against people who do not actively resist.
The protesters’ lawyers said the lawsuits held the police accountable for their actions.
The cases stemmed from a march one week after Occupy protesters first gathered and camped out in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan.
Online video showed Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna pepper-spraying a cluster of marchers, mostly women, who were corralled behind orange netting. The images helped galvanize the Occupy movement.
Inspector Bologna deployed the chemical “without the slightest provocation” as the protesters stood peacefully, said Ron Kuby, a lawyer for Kaylee Dedrick, who was seen on video being sprayed and crumpling to the ground.
Inspector Bologna’s union said he acted out of concern for safety and prevented more injuries and tumult. He was not charged with any crime, but he was found to have violated Police Department guidelines and was docked 10 vacation days.
The city has reached some other sizable settlements concerning the Occupy demonstrations, including a $583,000 agreement with 14 protesters who said they were wrongfully arrested on New Year’s Day 2012; $230,000 that the city and Zuccotti Park’s private owner are paying over allegations that a book collection was destroyed when the park was cleared in November 2011; and $55,000 to a man arrested while shooting video at an Occupy demonstration, according to lawyers in those cases.
But a federal appeals court this winter dismissed a lawsuit over the arrests of more than 700 Occupy supporters marching on the Brooklyn Bridge on Oct. 1, 2011. Some other Occupy-related lawsuits also continue, including cases involving police use of pepper spray.