WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez is donating a $30,000 settlement he received from a lawsuit against the city over his arrest during Occupy Wall Street to a legal advocacy organization founded to defend civil rights activists.
Rodriguez sued the city after he claimed police assaulted him when they arrested him during the clearing of Zuccotti Park in 2011. The city settled with the councilman last week, and on Monday he announced that the sum would go to the Center for Constitutional Rights during a press conference on the steps of City Hall.
“Our First Amendment right to publicly assemble and advocate for change is one of our most important rights in our nation,” Rodriguez said Monday. “No protester or elected official who acts in his or her role as an observer should be treated the way I and so many others were treated."
Rodriguez claimed he was beaten and thrown to the ground by police when he was arrested on Nov. 15, 2011, while attempting to observe the NYPD’s sweep of Zuccotti Park. He said that even after identifying himself as an elected official, police would not let him pass and arrested him along with a group of protestors and reporters.
The councilman said he was later left alone for three hours in a van outside of One Police Plaza and was not allowed to see his lawyer until moments before he went before the judge.
Police charged Rodriguez with resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration. However, those charges were later dropped. He sued the city for false arrest, malicious prosecution and excessive force.
Leo Glickman, Rodriguez’s lawyer, said this case was about more than the NYPD's treatment of the councilman as an individual.
“He had an official obligation on behalf of his constituents to observe a police action,” Glickman said. “This wasn’t just about the actions of a few misguided police officers. Preventing the press and our elected officials from seeing what police were doing that night came straight from the top, from the mayor’s office itself.”
Rodriguez called the Center for Constitutional Rights "one of the best organizations we have advocating for human rights," and noted that a lawyer from CCR represented him when he was arrested in the early '90s during a protest at the City College of New York, where he was a student at the time.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has long been involved in issues related to wrongful detentions and attacks on First Amendment rights. In 2008, it brought a class action suit against the city over the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy.
Vince Warren, executive director of CCR, said Rodriguez’s donation would help support similar initiatives aimed at police reform.
“I would like to thank Councilmember Rodriguez for his commitment to justice, the right to protest and the First Amendment,” he said. “His generous gift will help us move toward meaningful police reform for all New Yorkers.”