Seattle Pays Protesters $250,000 in WTO Class Action Settlement
SEATTLE, WA -- January 23, 2004 -- The city of Seattle agreed to pay protesters $250,000 in a class action settlement concerning their arrests during the World Trade Organization (WTO) convention in 1999. One hundred fifty-seven people had been arrested in the Seattle downtown area and taken to jail. Some were exercising their First Amendment rights to speak and demonstrate against WTO policies; others may have been uninvolved bystanders. All were arrested outside the so-called "no-protest zone," a 25-block area that was cordoned off by the police as off limits to demonstrators.
Last month, a federal district court ruled that the police did not have probable cause to arrest the protesters (Hickey et al. v. City of Seattle). Judge Marsha Pechman pointed to the use of photocopied arrest records and the lack of supporting documentation. She said that the arrests were made without the "requisite suspicion" needed for warrantless arrests.
After the federal district court ruling, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice (TLPJ) represented the protesters in the class action suit against the city and negotiated the settlement agreement. TLPJ is still challenging the legality of establishing a no-protest zone in the first place. It will represent those arrested in the no-protest zone before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on February 6, 2004.