activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

activist who discovered the father of her son was an undercover officer settles legal claim

Bob Lambert, an undercover officer, posed as an animal rights activist in the 1980s. Green Party politician Caroline Lucas has named Lambert, who infiltrated the ALF, as the undercover officer who allegedly planted a bomb at a department store in 1987. Like several other undercover officers in the UK between the mid-1980s and 2010, he apparently deceived women into developing long-term sexual relationships with him.

Though he was already married with two children, Lambert fathered a child with one of the women before disappearing in 1989. The woman didn’t discover he was an undercover officer until 2012. She was one of at least 11 women who sued for the trauma they suffered after having intimate relationships with undercover officers.

Her case was the first to settle. According to yesterday’s Guardian article,

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous and is known by the name Jacqui, said the out-of-court settlement in which the Met would pay her £425,000 would not bring closure for her as the force had not admitted wrongdoing.

Police chiefs have maintained that the undercover officers were not permitted to have sexual relationships with the people on whom they were spying. Yet such relationships were routine, often lasting several years.

fort lauderdale commissioners approve ordinance that restricts food not bombs

At a meeting that began Tuesday and ended at 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Fort Lauderdale commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of regulations regarding how food may be served in the downtown area. The ordinance will officially become law on October 31. According to yesterday’s Broward/Palm Beach New Times article,

The new ordinance deals primarily with how groups go about serving food to the homeless, such as rules on food handling, providing toilet facilities and hand-washing areas, and requirements on how and when the food should be served, particularly for groups that service the homeless outdoors and in parks. Homeless advocates say the restrictions are too cumbersome…

This is the fifth ordinance in the past six months that criminalizes homeless people or their allies in Fort Lauderdale. For example, commissioners recently passed an ordinance authorizing police to confiscate a homeless person’s possessions after a 24-hour notice, and keep them until the person pays a fee or proves that he or she can’t afford it. Food Not Bombs has invited anyone who disagrees with the ‘sharing ban’ to show up in costume on October 31 and openly feed homeless people.

activists file false arrest lawsuit against new york city

On November 1, 2011, 28 people were arrested for demonstrating outside a police station in Brooklyn. Yesterday 17 of them, who had to make numerous court appearances before their criminal charges were dismissed, filed a lawsuit against New York City. According to a New York Daily News article,

Ten minutes into the protest, the suit alleges, NYPD Capt. William Gardner ordered the arrests of 28 people including the plaintiffs on charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing government administration. “Their attempt to squelch plaintiffs’ speech and discourage future dissent is reprehensible,” the lawsuit says.

The activists were protesting the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy. In an important ruling on August 12, 2013, a federal judge found the NYPD liable for a pattern and practice of racial profiling and unconstitutional stop-and-frisks. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard oral argument on the police unions’ appeal on October 15, 2014.

québec court of appeal refuses to hear case brought against canadian community group

Having identified recurring problems in a landlord’s building, including cockroaches, mold, dirt, and doors that never locked, a Canadian community group called Oeil distributed leaflets to tenants and successfully represented a tenant against the landlord at the rent board. In 2012, the landlord’s family sued Oeil for defamation, seeking $5.6 million. According to yesterday’s CTV News article, two courts have now rejected the lawsuit:

With the help of a social activist lawyer, Oeil managed to have the lawsuit tossed out because it was considered abusive, and meant to ruin the organization with legal fees. It’s commonly called a SLAPP lawsuit. Last month the Quebec court of Appeal also refused to hear the … case.

Oeil is now entitled to reimbursement for its court costs and legal fees from the landlord’s family.

activists involved in banner action against proctor and gamble scheduled to go to trial

In May 2013, Greenpeace contacted Proctor & Gamble regarding its palm oil sourcing practices. After a year-long investigation into P&G suppliers, Greenpeace linked P&G to palm oil suppliers in Indonesia that apparently engaged in destructive deforestation, clearing of endangered animal habitat, and potentially illegal forest fires. On March 4, activists slipped into P&G in downtown Cincinnati and hung banners from the company’s office towers that criticized its palm oil sourcing practices.

The nine activists allegedly involved in the March 4 action faced felony burglary and vandalism charges. Only one of them was willing to accept the plea deal offered by the prosecution, so the rest are scheduled to go to trial on October 27. According to an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) publication titled Criminalizing America,

… the size and scope of criminal law has expanded so greatly that it has become a tool for regulating behavior that elected officials and unelected bureaucrats deem undesirable.

(ALEC is a pro-business organization comprised of legislative and corporate members who espouse free-market, limited-government policies. It is one of the groups that pushed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act through Congress.)

In April, P&G agreed to have 100% sustainably purchased palm and palm kernel oil by 2015, and 100% recycled or third-party certified paper products by 2020.

officer who turned activist’s bike upside down without consent conducted an unlawful search

On May 20, a Santa Ana police officer cited outspoken activist Igmar Rodas for riding an unlicensed bicycle. The Santa Ana municipal code prohibits riding a bike that has not been registered. On Wednesday, however, a judge ruled that the officer conducted an unlawful search by turning Rodas’s bike upside down without his consent. According to the Just Cause Law Collective,

Law enforcement officers can search without a warrant under a wide variety of circumstances. Among these, there’s only one situation in which you have any chance of preventing the intrusion—and that’s by saying “I don’t consent” when the police ask whether they can search. This is a powerful tool for using your civil rights, as important as remaining silent and asking to see a lawyer.

The judge upheld another citation Rodas received, though, for bicycling on a sidewalk in a business district. Rodas said he went on the sidewalk to get out of the officers’ way. He plans to appeal.

officer reinstated after throwing flash-bang grenade at demonstrators assisting scott olsen

During the October 25, 2011 protest against the eviction of Occupy Oakland, an Oakland police officer shot Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen in the head with a lead-filled bean-bag round, fracturing Olsen’s skull and causing permanent brain damage. Another officer, Rob Roche, then threw a flash-bang grenade at demonstrators who came to assist the bleeding Olsen. Although Roche was fired in August 2013 for this brutality, today an arbitrator ordered Oakland to reinstate him with back pay.

The Alameda County District Attorney never filed criminal charges against Roche or any other Oakland police officer for misconduct during the October 25, 2011 protest. Earlier this year, however, Olsen received a $4.5 million settlement from Oakland. According to a March 26 East Bay Express article,

As for Olsen, he said he’s relieved that his injuries were not worse. After the shooting, he temporarily lost his ability to speak and perform basic motor functions, and while he has improved significantly with therapy, his memory, concentration, and speech are still impaired.

former correction commissioner writes that imprisonment is by its very nature destructive

Cecily McMillan elbowed a New York City police officer in the eye as officers cleared Zuccotti Park of Occupy Wall Street protesters in March 2012. She recently served 58 days of a 90-day sentence on Rikers Island, a city jail. In today’s New York Times, the New York City correction commissioner from 2003 to 2009 has a letter to the editor regarding McMillan’s July 24 op-ed:

Cecily McMillan describes a grinding, degrading experience during her short stay on Rikers Island. Imprisonment is by its very nature destructive of human dignity, and the best antidote is for society to use it less often.

McMillan is a graduate student at the New School. Her attorney is appealing her conviction. She maintains that she struck the officer instinctively after he groped her breast.

settlement reached in lawsuit seeking to stop warrantless searches of arrestees’ cell phones

In March 2013, activist Bob Offer-Westort sued San Francisco to stop warrantless searches of arrestees’ cell phones. The parties put the case on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on June 25, 2014, in which the court held that searching an arrestee’s cell phone generally requires a warrant. Yesterday Offer-Westort dismissed his case in exchange for the San Francisco Police Department’s agreement to stop conducting warrantless searches of arrestees’ cell phones.

Even after the Supreme Court ruling, however, law enforcement agencies can still demand that cellphone carriers provide subscriber information, including text messages and caller locations. In 2012, cellphone carriers reported that they responded to 1.3 million such demands from law enforcement agencies in 2011. They turned over records thousands of times per day in response to police emergencies, court orders, law enforcement subpoenas, and other requests. According to a New York Times article dated July 9, 2012:

Under federal law, the carriers said they generally required a search warrant, a court order or a formal subpoena to release information about a subscriber. But in cases that law enforcement officials deem an emergency, a less formal request is often enough.

watchlisting guidance sets forth inclusion criteria, evidentiary standards, and procedures for placing individuals on no-fly list

The no-fly list, a secondary watch list derived from the main terrorist watch list, is used to prevent people from boarding aircraft. It consisted of 16 names before September 11, 2001. As of early 2012, it included approximately 21,000 names.

The only requirement for labeling someone a terrorist and barring him or her from flying indefinitely is that a federal agent must believe the person poses a ‘threat’ of engaging in terrorism. The definition of terrorism is broad enough to include civil disobedience. According to today’s press release from the Center for Constitutional Rights,

The criteria for placement on the broader terrorist watchlist, which grew by nearly half a million entries in 2013 alone, are even lower. Social media postings, including, presumably, posts to Facebook and Twitter, can apparently by themselves result in placement on a watchlist, as can “travel for no known lawful or legitimate purpose to a locus of terrorist activity” …

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