Wednesday, April 04, 2007

City of Seattle Agrees to Pay WTO Protesters $1 Million

Ciy of Seattle has agreed to pay WTO Protestors $1 million in compensation to around 175 people who were wrongfully arrested during a peaceful World Trade Organisation protest in 1999. $800,000 has already been paid out after more than a dozen WTO lawsuits and claims from people whose constitutional rights were violated during the Seattle World Trade Organisation protests of 1999. This is the last of the Protestors claims against the City of Seattle.

The lead plaintiff, Ken Hankin, had spent three days in police custody and wasn't released until the WTO meetings had ended.
"I lost my right to protest the WTO," he said. "That's something I feel very upset about."

The case went to trial in January 2007, the jury found the City of Seattle had violated the protesters' constitutional rights by arresting them without cause.

The mass arrest of non-violent protestors who were sitting and singing patriotic anthems in a park that had been deemed a "no-protest" zone by the mayor of Seattle, was deemed unlawful largely because the arresting police officers made no effort to determine whether the protesters had other legitimate reasons to be there before making the mass arrests.

The city agreed in the settlement to issue copies of the rulings made in this case to all police cadets and officers to help prevent unlawful mass arrests in the future.

This settlement payout was made to avoid the City of Seattle from entering "a damages phase" which could have seen much larger payouts.
"The police can respect the constitutional rights of protesters and at the same time protect the public safety," said Mike Withey of Washington, D.C.-based Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, which brought the lawsuit.
The settlement is as follows:
* $1 million to the 175+ Protestors
* City of Seattle must seal the arrest records and ask any law enforcement agencies that received copies to expunge them (this must still be appoved by a federal judge, and is not an ideal situation - destruction of the records and revealing just who else was privy to that information would have been a far better deal for these non-violent protestors)
* Each protester will be eligible to receive $3,000 to $10,000 (however some of the settlement will pay off legal fees).
Hankin said that he was pleased that settlement had been reached but stated that getting a few thousand dollars seemed paltry compared to the violation of his rights.

No comments: