Three more Occupy Wall Street protesters are suing the NYPD for being pepper-sprayed during demonstrations last fall—two of them at the hands of Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna. But the suit goes beyond seeking damages for the individuals and asks for the courts to establish judicial supervision over how police oversee protests. "We are seeing a lot of instances of NYPD officers using force on people, but not arresting them," says Mark Taylor, one of the attorneys for the protesters. "A lot of these incidents are the police department attempting to intimidate people, trying to scare them away from demonstrating."
Two of the women seen in the widely circulated video of Deputy Inspector Bologna's use of pepper spray sued the officer and the city in February, but these new lawsuits are unrelated. None of the three plaintiffs, Damien Crisp, Julie Lawler, and Kelly Hanlin, were arrested after being pepper-sprayed, and the name of the officer who pepper-sprayed Hanlin is unknown. The city is leaving Bologna to pay for his own defense in the case of the two complaints announced in February, and it's unclear whether they will do the same with these lawsuits.
Taylor says the delay in filing the suits can be attributed to the time needed to file a notice of claim, "[the firm's] current work load," and the 132-page report released last week by the NYU School of Law's Global Justice Clinic documenting a litany of human rights violations on the part of the NYPD during Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.
"You need a strong basis for the sort of judicial intervention that we're requesting for, and we believe that report provides it," Taylor says. "We knew they were compiling it so we waited for it to be released—we're kind of piggybacking on their research."
Taylor points to the Handschu agreement, a court-ordered set of regulations that guide the NYPD's methods of surveilling the public as precedent (although those guidelines were drastically altered after 9/11 to give the department considerably more leeway).
"There are requests for monetary damages in the suits, and punitive damages—as anyone would seek if they were wrongfully pepper-sprayed," Tayor says. "But this is mostly about changing the way the NYPD's policy. Ray Kelly isn't going to do it, the mayor isn't going to do it, so we're asking the courts to step in."
You can watch a video of Crisp and Lawler describe their ordeal below.