Occupy Wall Street lawsuit over NY arrests can go forward

NEW YORK Thu Jun 7, 2012 6:20pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A lawsuit filed against New York City police officers involved in arresting some 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters during a march over Brooklyn Bridge last fall can go forward, a Manhattan federal judge ruled on Thursday.

A separate claim against New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the city was thrown out.

Last October 1, as thousands of demonstrators marched from their encampment at Zuccotti Park to the Brooklyn Bridge, hundreds were rounded up in police netting and arrested.

In a lawsuit filed on October 4, many of those protesters contended they were unlawfully arrested. They said police had effectively tricked them into believing their march was being accommodated and they could lawfully be on the bridge roadway.

"While initially, the police officers congregated at the entrance to the bridge's vehicular roadway, thus effectively blocking the demonstrators from proceeding further, the officers then turned and started walking away from the demonstrators and onto the roadway - an implicit invitation to follow," U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff said in a 30-page ruling.

"We think this is a significant victory and a vindication for the protesters who were illegally arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a lawyer representing the protesters.

But while the protesters' claims against the arresting officers can move forward, the larger claims suggesting a city-wide conspiracy against the Occupy Wall Street protesters were thrown out.

"The plaintiffs cannot bridge the gap between the broad, conspiratorial policy they attribute to the city and the violations that they have plausibly alleged in this case," Rakoff said.

Arthur Larkin, senior counsel at the city law department's special federal litigation division said the city is "pleased the Court found that neither the mayor nor the police commissioner is liable."

"We are considering all legal options, including appeal, concerning the remainder of the decision," Larkin said.

(Reporting By Edith Honan; editing by Todd Eastham)

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