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Occupy Philadelphia Protesters Sue Over Arrests

Occupy members sleep outside the Wells Fargo building on Old City during the National Gathering. (Credit: Jim Melwert)

Occupy members sleep outside the Wells Fargo building on Old City during the National Gathering. (Credit: Jim Melwert)

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — More than two dozen Occupy Philadelphia protesters have filed suit against the city and police over their arrests when authorities broke up their encampment two years ago.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court accuses officials of false arrest and violating constitutional rights of free speech and assembly.

Attorney Lawrence Krasner called his clients “American heroes who effectively fought against economic equality for the 99 percent … whose thanks from the government was this bogus arrest.”

Another attorney representing the plaintiffs, Paul Hetznecker, said the arrests struck at the “very heart of our democracy.”

“We live in a dangerous time when the right to gather in protest in a collective voice of dissent is criminalized,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief involving the city’s handling of the Occupy demonstrators. There are 26 plaintiffs, and the police commissioner and other police officials and officers are named as defendants.

A city solicitor declined to comment, saying officials hadn’t seen the lawsuit.

The protesters camped next to City Hall beginning in October 2011 in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York. They spoke out against economic inequality and what they called corporate greed.

City officials evicted them at the end of November 2011, citing long-planned renovation work at the site. A judge later acquitted 31 protesters of failure to disperse, obstructing the highway and criminal conspiracy.

 (© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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