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New York ordered to pay up over NYPD's destruction of Occupy property

Published time: April 10, 2013 03:23
A bible and other recovered books from the Occupy Wall Street library damaged in the November 15 eviction of Zuccotti Park on display at a press conference November 23, 2011 at a lawyers office in New York. (AFP Photo / Stan Honda)

A bible and other recovered books from the Occupy Wall Street library damaged in the November 15 eviction of Zuccotti Park on display at a press conference November 23, 2011 at a lawyers office in New York. (AFP Photo / Stan Honda)

The City of New York will pay over $365,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by people whose property was damaged and destroyed when the NYPD raided Zuccotti Park, dispersing Occupy Wall Street protesters, on November 15, 2011.

The City of New York will pay over $365,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by people whose property was damaged and destroyed when the NYPD raided Zuccotti Park, dispersing Occupy Wall Street protesters, on November 15, 2011.

The crux of the lawsuit was the destruction of the People’s Library, in which NYPD officers damaged and disposed of 5,500 publicly donated books gathered over a two-month period. In the days following the midnight raid, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg initially claimed the library was still intact but was eventually forced to admit that he presided over its destruction.

Occupy activists have since rallied around the dismantling of the library, citing it as evidence of the government’s commitment to suppressing criticism and a free exchange of ideas while comparing Bloomberg to book-burning Nazi-era Germany and other totalitarian states.

The plaintiffs sought $47,000 in damages and promised not to settle unless they received that amount, which they eventually did. The city will also pay $186,350 in fees and costs to Occupy Wall Street’s lawyers.

Our clients are pleased,” Norman Siegel, the attorney for Occupy Wall Street, told the Village Voice. “We had asked for damages of $47,000 for the books and the computers, and we got $47,000. More important – we would have not settled without this – is the language in the settlement. This was not just about money, it was about Constitutional rights and the destruction of books.”

The city will also pay $75,000 for destroying property owned by Global Revolutions TV, a media station that livestreamed the activity in the park, another $49,850 in court and lawyer fees, and an $8,500 check will go to Times Up New York.

Not long after the lawsuit was filed attorneys for the city tried to enlist Brookfield Properties, the owner of Zuccotti Park, as a co-defendant. Despite sending in NYPD officers and workers from the department of Sanitation to clean up the park, the city alleged that Brookfield was liable for the destructive results of the raid. Brookfield properties, which hired a carting company for the mass eviction, will pay the city $15,666.67, as per the court settlement.

Siegel outlined the goals of the lawsuit last year.

My sense was the Bloomberg administration was not prepared to say it did anything wrong,” he said. “But we want a declaration, for historical purposes, that the government can’t do what it did on November 15 and get away with it.”