February 10, 2012
Lawsuit filed against NYC over “destroyed” People’s Library
by Dennis Johnson
“A member of the Occupy Wall Street movement filed a claim on behalf of the group Thursday that the city had damaged or destroyed $47,000 worth of books and other property while clearing its protest site at Zuccotti Park last fall,” reports a New York Times story by Colin Moynihan. He calls the filing “a preliminary step toward lodging a civil lawsuit.” The person filing the claim, Peter Dutro, “is described in the notice as the ‘de facto treasurer’ of the group.”
As the report recounts,
When the Occupy Wall Street encampment was evicted from the park on Nov. 15, police officers and sanitation workers dismantled and removed belongings and furnishings that had been kept in the park, tossing them onto sidewalks, into metal containers and into a dump truck. Many of those items ended up at a Sanitation Department facility in Midtown, where they were made available for pickup by their owners, some of whom found them damaged beyond repair. Other property, some of the Occupy protesters say, never resurfaced.
The lawsuit was first threatened at a press conference back in November at which represetatives of the New York Civil Liberties Union, National Lawyers Guild, and the American Library Association joined with OWS members to protest the police action and display some of the damaged books that had been returned to them. (See a video of the raid included in the earlier MobyLives report.)
The Times reports that the filing claims the city …
… “unreasonably seized and took possession” of about 3,600 books, four computers, WiFi equipment, shelves, wooden chairs and the large tent that covered the area that the protesters called the People’s Library… When the librarians went to the sanitation facility, the claim said, only 1,003 of their books could be found and 201 of them were so damaged as to be unusable. The four computers were also damaged beyond repair, the claim said, and protesters said at the time that hard drives were missing from those machines that were retrieved and that the casings of the computers had been twisted and bent.
A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office tells the Times, ”We invited members of the Occupy Wall Street group to file these kinds of claims back in November. Like any other claim, it will go through the normal process.”
Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.