While the Occupy Wall Street movement sparked hundreds of protests around the world, there has been much debate over what happens when someone gets injured. If someone gets injured when force is used by police, who foots the bill? Should the police, the city where the protest was held, the “Occupy” group themselves, or is the protester entirely responsible for their own safety and well-being?
For most cases occurring within the past six months, it seems that the responsibility falls entirely on the victims themselves. While the Occupy movement has a somewhat established group of people, they are unorganized in terms of their goals and what they actually stand for. It seems that everyone is fighting for different reasons. Because of this sharp dissonance between members, most people have to look out for themselves.
Since the movement started, there have been many cases of people being injured during protests. Whether it is the fault of police brutality or because of the protesters inability to listen depends entirely on the case.
For example, back in November 2011 in New York, where most of the action is occurring, 177 people were arrested as they crowded intersections near the New York Stock Exchange. Out of these people arrested, ten of them were injured. Many police used harsh force by hitting and shoving protesters to clear the way for the workers on Wall Street that are trying to get to their jobs for the day. One woman was even reported to have been pinned to the ground by the police with a bleeding mouth. It was quite a horrible sight to witness. Besides the protesters, two officers were also injured and several officers were hit in the face with some type of liquid.
Later on, during the month of December 2011, lawsuits were actually filed by protesters demanding justice against what they consider unjust police force as well being “evicted” from their spots of protest. Most of the protesters filed the lawsuits because they believe that everything they were doing was well within their First Amendment rights, including setting up tents to live in.
According to the Huffington Post, “The National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California sued the Oakland Police Department in federal court in November, saying police and other agencies violated demonstrators’ Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force – including “flash-bang” grenades – against demonstrators who posed no safety threat. The suit says officials also violated their First Amendment rights to assemble and demonstrate.”
While similar lawsuits are springing up around the country, they all are basically for the same reasons. They believe that the police removed them from their places of protests using excessive force that shouldn’t be tolerated and they believe that their rights as American citizens are being violated.
Most of these lawsuits will, however, never see the light of court; whether as a result of insufficient funds to initiate legal proceedings or a “weak case.” In fact, just recently “Occupy” protesters dropped their two month lawsuit against New York City over the group’s eviction from Zuccotti Park. Although the protesters did drop this lawsuit, they did hint that future lawsuits are still possible.
Beyond the instances of police brutality or citizens versus government agencies, many protestors have been injured by other protestors. From personal theft to sexual assault (most unreported), the camps suffered from the lack of security. Rick Youngblood, a member of the occupy camp in Eugene, Oregon died after an altercation with other members of the occupy camp. No arrests have been made to date and as recently as April 11, 2012, police have stated they have no “other viable, investigative leads.” Mr. Youngblood’s death, as with many personal injuries, remains an unsolved personal injury, most severe.
The debate over who is at fault in such civil protests has existed since the origin of democracy and it appears that it will continue, long after the Occupy movements have passed.
This article was written by Jessica Stambaugh for the firm of Katz & Phillips, P.A., where a dedicated Orlando DUI attorney is available for a free consultation. The members of Katz & Phillips, P.A. are firm believers in the glory of democratic society and each citizens right to a fair trial.