The violent, "shock and awe" process that so-called "conservatives" cheered when L.A. police officials suddenly cleared the eight-week old Occupy encampment off the grounds of City Hall in 2011, will now cost the city some $2.5 million in settlement payments to the disrupted demonstrators.
The L.A. City Council, which had passed a resolution in support of the protesters in October of 2011, agreed to settle the lawsuit filed by a number demonstrators who said they were mistreated by police officials after then Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) ordered LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to clear the tents and peaceful demonstrators from the City Hall grounds.
As we reported at the time, after the space was cleared in a late night law enforcement offensive, hundreds of demonstrators were detained in poor conditions for hours on end, many handcuffed in buses without access to food, water or medicine. The excessive force and deplorable conditions were often brutal and, yes, bordered on torture. Some were forced to urinate and defecate in their seats during the hours of detention and faced other brutal and humiliating treatment at the hands of both L.A. City and County police officials.
As Patrick Meighan, a writer for Fox' animated sitcom Family Guy and one of the non-violent protesters arrested on the night of the crackdown, detailed at the time: "They forced us to kneel on the hard pavement of that parking garage for seven straight hours with our hands still tightly zipcuffed behind our backs. Some began to pass out. One man rolled to the ground and vomited for a long, long time before falling unconscious. The LAPD officers watched and did nothing."
Finally, however, it appears there will at least be some accountability...
Although the City Council agreed to settle, the deal must still be approved by a U.S. District Court judge before it's finalized, said Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the city attorney's office.
Cheryl Aichele and five other demonstrators filed a lawsuit in December 2012, alleging the police department used a "shock and awe" campaign to forcibly remove hundreds of protesters from a campsite on the south side of City Hall.
[I]n court documents, protesters allege that the military tactics resulted in nearly 300 arrests in November 2011 and violated their "First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to assembly, association, freedom from unlawful seizure and liberty."
The protesters claimed their handcuffs were tight and they were refused basic rights, including access to water or bathroom facilities. They alleged they were told to urinate and defecate on themselves, according to the lawsuit.
The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations quickly spread nationwide in the fall of 2011, and were often brutally and violently crushed by state and local law enforcement groups at the orders of both Democratic and Republican elected officials in a number of states and cities. Protesters argued at the time that the police actions, which often turned incredibly violent, were in violation of the Constitution's First Amendment "right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Rightwingers, who, at other times (see "Tea Party" rallies or the armed standoff against federal officials at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada last summer) have declared their love for First Amendment protest against government tyranny, were largely antagonistic towards Occupy demonstrators at the time. While many on the Right, perhaps ironically, were vocal in their support of the Big Government-led crackdowns on the large and sustained demonstrations against economic inequality and corporate favoritism, their perverse brand of "conservatism" is, once again, coming at a very high cost.
In this case, the price was not only against Constitutional free speech rights, but also against the pocket books of tax-payers who will now be forced to cough up nearly $2.5 million as recompense for unlawful and unconstitutional actions by law enforcement.