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City Settles Class Action Suit Over 2003 Iraq War Protest Arrests

By aaroncynic in News on Feb 9, 2012 9:20PM

An Iraq War protest from 2008. (Image Credit: John Sisson)

Attorneys for the City of Chicago told federal judges they reached a settlement in the class action lawsuit brought by more than 800 people arrested after protesters took Lake Shore Drive in a 2003 march against the Iraq War. The Chicago Tribune reports those arrested, charged and detained will potentially receive up to $15,000 and people arrested but not charged would receive $8,750. People held on the street for over 90 minutes will receive $500. In total, the lawsuit will cost the city $6.2 million, not including legal fees.

Towards the end of the march, when the majority of demonstrators exited Lake Shore Drive after a long standoff with police, some 800 people were kettled at Chicago and Michigan Avenues. Most of the arrested just wanted to head home, and some arrestees weren’t even part of the protest, but instead were passersby and onlookers. Federal appellate Justice Richard Posner ruled last year the arrests were unjustified and noted that all of the charges were later dismissed in court.

The National Lawyers Guild, in conjunction with the People’s Law Office, worked on the case for nine years. The People’s Law Office said in a statement:

“Based on our collective experience litigating police misconduct cases for decades, we feel very positive about this settlement and about the amount of compensation for each sub-class member. We also believe that such a significant settlement will send an unequivocal message to the City of Chicago and its Police Department that they must respect your right to demonstrate.”

The settlement isn’t only a victory for the participants in the class action suit, it also affects future demonstrations. According to the People’s Law Office, the court opinion holds that the City cannot arrest peaceful demonstrators without warning, solely because they do not have a permit, and will apply to future demonstrations. Rachael Perrotta, a member of the class action suit and current participant in Occupy Chicago, said “The last time the CPD faced huge protests, they violated the constitutional rights of over 700 people. If the CPD has the right to deputize police officers from other cities during the NATO/G8 summits, as well as private security, how will law enforcement be held accountable?”