Legal News - NYPD settles abuse suit after anti-war protest

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Police have agreed to rein in mounted patrols and adopt other new policies protecting the rights of demonstrators in order to settle a lawsuit brought by anti-war protesters, the New York Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday.

The outcome "is a long overdue recognition by the police department that changes needed to be made in the policing of large demonstrations," said Christopher Dunn, NYCLU associate legal director.

The New York Police Department called the settlement insignificant, claiming that most of the measures already were in place. "These are things we've been doing all along," said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.

The suit accused police of needlessly disrupting a large anti-war demonstration near the United Nations on Feb. 15, 2003, a month before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Three plaintiffs alleged that officers closed access points, trapped protesters inside barricade pens and charged into crowds on horseback, knocking people down.

The NYCLU said the settlement requires police to publicize detailed information on street closures and access points both prior to and during major demonstrations; to make sure that when using barricade pens, protesters are allowed to come and go as they please; and to give demonstrators ample warning and a chance to leave before using horses to disperse crowds.

In a separate case stemming from lawsuits filed by protesters arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention, a federal judge has rejected a bid by the NYPD to keep confidential information provided by the deputy commissioner of intelligence.

The department had argued the documents should be filed under seal because disclosure could compromise intelligence operations.

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