Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Judge rules mass arrests in WTO invalid
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER STAFF
A federal judge has ruled that the mass arrests of about 150 people during the World Trade Organization demonstrations in November 1999 are invalid because police lacked proper documentation.
In a ruling in a lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman said the arrests on First Avenue in Belltown violated the constitutional mandate that arrests be made only when police have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.
Pechman called the Seattle Police Department's documentation of the arrests "atrocious" and noted that the arrest forms are incorrect in stating that the arrests were made inside a "no protest" zone closer to the WTO venues.
A trial to determine whether the city is liable for damages is scheduled for Jan. 20 and will hinge on whether it can be shown that then-Mayor Paul Schell and then-police Chief Norm Stamper subsequently approved the mass arrests implemented by the police field commander.
A group of protesters was herded by police north up First Avenue where they were surrounded and arrested. It is in dispute whether they were first ordered to disperse and given a meaningful chance to do so.
The plaintiffs suing the city allege that arresting officers made no attempt to differentiate between demonstrators and innocent bystanders.
From the Seattle PI - http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/154774_wto31.html