Occupy Wall Street is nineteen days into its protests, and counting. Today might be its biggest day yet. The police have taken an aggressive approach to crowd controls — more than 700 arrests last weekend alone — and that doesn’t come cheap.
There’s no accounting quite yet, but WNYC reports that the department has had to rotate officers in from other precincts, including the Bronx, to keep a robust presence at the protest site in lower Manhattan, and they’ve had to pay out a ton of overtime. It’s also been a “headache” dealing with the owners of Zucotti Park (a privately owned public space), who are irritated by the crowds and trash. While Commissioner Ray Kelly says the protestors have a right to be in the space, other police sources, echoing Mayor Bloomberg’s “we’ll see” comments last week, say they don’t think that particular site can be used “indefinitely.”
But the end of the protests doesn’t necessarily mean the end of costly headaches for the NYPD: As the Huffington Post points out, the sort of pre-planned “trap and detain” (or “kettling,” as it’s sometimes called) mass arrest tactics have been the target of lawsuits before, with settlements in the millions. It would be surprising if no one filed suit this time around.
Update: It’s already happened! The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund has filed a class-action suit in Manhattan Federal Court on behalf of the arrested protesters. “The NYPD engaged in a premeditated, planned, scripted and calculated effort to sweep the streets of protesters and disrupt a growing protest movement in New York,” reads the charge.