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Occupy Wall Street police raid damages resolved by settlement

New York City will pay more than $200,000 for the destruction of property caused during the Occupy Wall Street police raid at Zuccotti Park in November 2011, according to a lawsuit settlement made last Tuesday.

The New York Police Department’s seizure of the park resulted in damages to the People’s Library and 3,600 donated books by librarians, volunteers and authors.

The books, ranging from Shakespeare plays to a copy of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s autobiography, were swept up as one of the city’s effort to police the Occupy movement, which began in September 2011.

“I was actually there at the time of the police raid, and I saw firsthand how the police were indiscriminately throwing hundreds of books into dump trucks while they were clearing out the Occupy encampment,” GSAS student Sean Larson said.

Occupy Wall Street initiated the lawsuit on May 24, 2012. The city agreed to pay $47,000 in damages made the day of the raid and $186,349.58 in attorney fees to Occupy Wall Street’s lawyers.

Brookfield Properties, the owner of Zuccotti Park, will pay almost $16,000 as a defendant in the lawsuit. The owner declined to comment.

Andrew Ross, professor of social and cultural analysis, said that this is only one of many lawsuits Occupy has filed against the city.

“Many of them involve police brutality and illegal arrest of protesters, a shameful milestone in the NYPD history that will never be forgotten by those of us who witnessed the ill-treatment,” Ross said. “The willful and contemptuous destruction of the People’s Library stands out as a particularly ugly episode, symptomatic in my view of the contempt of City Hall for Occupy Wall Street and what it stands for.”

City officials defended the police arrests of more than 100 people and the dismantlement of the camp, saying it had turned into a health and fire safety hazard.

“It was absolutely necessary for the city to address the rapidly growing safety and health threats posed by the Occupy Wall Street encampment,” said Sheryl Nuefeld, senior counsel for the city’s administrative law division.

Nuefeld said the settlement aimed to avoid extending litigations, which could potentially bolster plaintiff attorney fees.

Norman Siegel, one of the attorneys for the protesters, said the $47,000, which the protesters will receive from the city to pay for damages, will directly cover library and literacy efforts in New York.

“Because of the lawsuit, Bloomberg and the city now have to pay the People’s Library for their crime,” Larson said. “What’s needed is a movement that can stop such illegal destruction from ever happening in the first place.”

Sofia Ferrandiz is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]

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Occupy Wall Street police raid damages resolved by settlement