New York City to Pay Occupy Protesters for Damaged Property
(Reuters) - New York City has agreed to pay Occupy Wall Street protesters more than $100,000 for property damaged or lost when police cleared out their encampment in a downtown Manhattan park in 2011, according to court documents signed on Tuesday.
The settlement includes $47,000 for books and library equipment lost or damaged in the raid on Zuccotti Park, where the protesters, campaigning against economic inequality, had camped for nearly two months, setting up tents and a ramshackle library.
Hundreds of books were damaged, and more than 2,000 books were never returned after police raided the park early on November 15, 2011, said Norman Siegel, an attorney for the protesters.
Brookfield Office Properties, named in the protesters' federal lawsuit as owner of Zuccotti Park, will reimburse the city one third of the $47,000 in library damages, the documents said.
The city also agreed to settle two related federal lawsuits by paying the protesters $75,000 for lost or damaged computers and network and broadcasting equipment, and $8,500 to an environmental group for 16 lost or damaged "energy bicycles" used as power generators at the park, the documents said.
The lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
In the raid, police arrested more than a hundred protesters and dismantled the encampment, which city officials said had become a health and fire safety hazard.
The encampment had been most visible fixture of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which inspired similar protests in dozens of cities across the United States and around the world.
"This settlement creates a record that what they did that night was wrong," Siegel said.
The city acknowledged in court documents that the damage and loss of property were "unfortunate" and said it was important to "adhere to established procedures in order to protect the legal rights of the property owners."
But city officials in a separate statement on Tuesday defended the eviction from Zuccotti Park.
"It was absolutely necessary for the city to address the rapidly growing safety and health threats posed by the Occupy Wall street encampment," the statement said.
"There are many reasons to settle a case, and sometimes that includes avoiding the potential for drawn-out litigation that bolsters plaintiff attorney fees."
The park's library had been an "eclectic" collection of titles, including many political and history books, Siegel said.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Todd Eastham)