The 2004 Republican National Convention Class Action
Public protests during the 2004 Republican National Convention evoked a response from the New York Police Department that resulted in the unlawful arrest and detention of more than 1,800 demonstrators, journalists, and bystanders. In November of 2004, New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and several NYPD officers were sued for conducting and condoning these unlawful arrests as well as impeding upon several fundamental constitutional rights, including those of of due process and peaceful assembly.
These mass and indiscriminate arrests were exemplified through an occurrence on a sidewalk on Fulton Street where 226 people, protesters and bystanders alike, were rounded up, arrested, and detained. The NYPD constructed a makeshift site on Pier 57, where many of the detainees were held. Many plaintiffs reported being held up for up to 16 hours in these dirty and overcrowded makeshift cells. This site, which adopted the nickname “Guantanamo on the Hudson,” was also reported to be ridden with highly toxic chemicals and substances on its floors and cages, resulting in various reported complications from detained plaintiffs. Filmmaker Michael Shiller was of the hundreds detained in this mass arrest while attempting to document the protests. He produced the documentary “The After Party” which depicts the harsh conditions in which hundreds of innocent civilians were subjected to.
Beldock Levine & Hoffman’s Jonathan Moore filed the original lawsuit in November of 2004, months after the protests took place. In description of Pier 57, he said: “All that was missing were the orange jumpsuits. Under the guise of terrorism and the fear of terrorism, we are all losing our rights.” Moore, along with various litigators from the NYCLU, worked tirelessly for years achieve a result that they felt reflected the massive scale by which so many public servants intruded upon the rights of law-abiding citizens/.
The class-action lawsuit came to a conclusion almost a decade following the protests with New York City’s law department announcing a settlement of $18 Million, the largest protest settlement in history. While the city never admitted any liability, this historically immense settlement serves a tremendous victory for the protection of public demonstrators as well as the individual rights as a whole that hold our democracy together.