FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, September 27, 2006
Contacts: Carol Sobel (310) 922-76001
Andrea Costello (352) 246-5690
PROTESTERS UNLAWFULLY ARRESTED AT FTAA DEMONSTRATIONS WIN VICTORY
In a significant victory for constitutional rights, today, the Eleventh Circuit handed down its ruling denying qualified immunity to several officers who engaged in unlawful arrests at the demonstrations against the meetings of the Free Trade Area of the Americas in Miami, Florida, during November 2003. This ruling clears the way for the demonstrators who suffered constitutional rights deprivations to proceed with their litigation.
The case, Killmon, et al. v. City of Miami, et al., was brought to challenge the widespread assault on the civil rights and civil liberties of protestors during the demonstrations, including challenging the so-called "Miami model," a deliberate and coordinated effort by over 40 local, state and federal authorities to engaging in silence dissent and engage in widespread political profiling, and swept the streets of anyone viewed as being an anti-FTAA activist, effectively suspending the Fourth Amendment in the city for ten days using excessive force and unlawfully arresting
hundreds of people engaging in lawful political protest.
"We are elated by the ruling," stated Carol Sobel, lead counsel for the Plaintiffs, "What went on at the FTAA protest was a blatant violation of constitutional rights."
"The Court has firmly rejected the 'just following orders' defense raised by these officers," said Andrea Costello, also lead counsel for the Plaintiffs. "This sends a clear message that there will be accountability for those officers who targeted people for false arrest based on their political beliefs and affiliations. "
The deputies, with the Broward Sherriff's Office, had claimed that their actions were not in violation of the law and that they should be immune from liability. They asserted that there was probable cause to arrest three protestors hours after, and miles away from the site of a mass permitted rally solely because of their association with those protests. The Plaintiffs, whose claims were at issue in the appeal, had been arrested after they were herded and ordered to walk down railroad tracks following mass sweeps of the streets after the largest rally by the AFL-CIO that was
part of the week long demonstrations.
Counsel for the Plaintiffs includes: Carol Sobel, Robert Ross, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Carl Messineo, and Jonathan Moore of the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee; and Andrea Costello and Alice Nelson of Southern Legal Counsel.