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The High Cost of a Protest

The next time New York City police decide to engage in mass arrests of peaceful protesters, they may want to engage in a cost-benefit analysis.  Today's New York Times reports that the 2003 arrest of 52 protesters demonstrating against the invasion of Iraq on charges of blocking pedestrians has cost the City a minimum of $2 million.  Following the acquittal of two protesters and dismissal of charges against the others, the protesters sued, alleging violations of First Amendment speech rights.  Now, the City has agreed to pay $2 million to settle the civil action -- with $1 million of that sum going to the protesters' lawyers.

But as the article notes, the $2 million payment comprises only a portion of the City's true costs.  For example, the protesters' attorneys deposed 55 police officers who each lost two days of work.  The City would have also incurred the costs of deposition transcripts -- over $100,000 -- according to one of the plaintiffs' lawyers.  Finally, the city staffed the case with five lawyers over the past four years and a special appellate team.  All told, a conservative estimate for the City's expenses to fight the lawsuit that it ultimately settled totaled around $1 million.

Of course, the plaintiffs didn't obtain a full victory.  The City did not admit liability and thus, avoids setting adverse precedent and retains the psychological satisfaction of being able to say that it wasn't wrong.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on August 20, 2008 at 10:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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