A federal judge ruled yesterday that the NYPD's mass arrest of demonstrators during the 2004 Republican National Convention was illegal, citing the NYPD's lack of individualized probable cause.

Judge Richard Sullivan rejected the city's claim that the NYPD relied on "group probable cause" in making 200-plus arrests on Aug 31, 2004, in which protesters marching from the World Trade Center to Madison Square Garden were stopped on Fulton Street and arrested on charges related to blocking the sidewalk. "No matter the circumstances, an arresting officer must believe that every individual arrested personally violated the law," Sullivan wrote in an opinion. "The Fourth Amendment does not recognize guilt by association."

However, while Sullivan ruled that the mass arrest was illegal, he did not take issue with the NYPD's handling of the arrestees, which included fingerprinting, detaining them for over 24 hours in many cases instead of simply issuing summonses and desk appearance tickets. "The No-Summons Policy was the City's answer to a threat derived from intelligence sources—namely, that demonstrators aimed to 'shut down the City of New York and the RNC' through 'continuous unlawful behavior,'" Sullivan wrote in his opinion. "It is simply unrealistic to expect the City to have implemented a more narrowly tailored, individualized alternative to the No-Summons Policy." The NYPD's implementation of the No-Summons Policy was one of the complaints plaintiffs had lodged against the city in their suits.

The ruling makes way for the city to pay damages to over fifty plaintiffs who sued the city for unlawful arrest. The city has been shelling out quite a bit of cash settling RNC-related lawsuits over the past few years, and currently has more suits pending. During the RNC, the NYPD significantly stepped up its presence in the city, employing nearly 12,000 officers to work the convention, which was more of a police presence than any city had during prior conventions. See below for Sullivan's full opinion:

2004RNC SJ Decision