MANHATTAN FEDERAL COURT — A federal court judge will decide whether 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters were legally arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge after hearing arguments Thursday that the mass of demonstrators was trapped and then put in cuffs without warning.
U.S. District Court judge Jed Rakoff discussed several videos in a hearing at federal court that OWS lawyers said showed protesters being given access to the bridge's roadways as high-ranking police officers stepped aside to let them through.
"They led people well out halfway across the bridge then then trapped them on two sides," attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard said.
As the group chanted, "Take the bridge, take the bridge," she said the police let the sea of marchers take over the pedestrian and vehicular lanes of the structure in October 2011 shortly before most of them were handcuffed and detained for processing.
"It's the police that made the determination to stop the traffic on the bridge for hours," said Verheyden-Hilliard.
None of the demonstrators could hear above the roar of the crowd the single warning made by police to not block the road, the attorney said.
But the judge also saw video taken and submitted by the NYPD's video unit that, as the judge describes, shows a bullhorn arrest warning to the crowd that was audible — the opposite of the footage submitted by the plaintiffs showed.
City attorney Arthur Larkin said Thursday at the late afternoon hearing that the arrests were legal because the marchers did not have a parade permit, meaning they did not have permission to block a roadway so it did not matter if they believed they had permission from the cops at the scene.
"The only permission that's lawful is written permission by the police commissioner," Larkin argued.
He also said the police had provided several warnings throughout the march, ordering the protesters not to block traffic or leave the sidewalks.
Lawyers for the protesters are asking for an injunction that would prohibit police from arresting protest groups in a similar fashion. They also want the arrests of the Brooklyn Bridge marchers to be nullified.
Judge Rakoff said he'd rule on the legality of arrests promptly.