Protestors Not Released When Ordered

From U.S. News:

(This link may become outdated.)

I understand jailing protestors if they are breaking a law. I do not understand how a city can continue to hold people against a judge’s order and then be fined only $1,000 per person. Will the protestors have a right to sue the city for continuing to hold them?

Is this defiance of the court order evidence of subordination of the individual to the state by strict control and coercive measures (continued incarceration) relating to centralized control by a leader or hierarchy (the Bush campaign? NYC officials?)?

Isn’t that a rough definition of totalitarianism? (I meshed a couple.)

Or, could it be that when you arrest, what? 1800 people? In 4 days it takes a bit of time to process them? I assume they were finger printed and other paperwork was done on them…no? In addition, weren’t most of the police resources out IN the city? Wouldn’t that mean there were LESS assets available to help with the processing? To me this seems a logical explaination, no conspiricy theory or wild totalitarian rumblings needed.

To simple an explaination?


Not all the people arrested were protestors. Today I was listening to NPR and a 17 y-o girl who had been arrested was interviewed. She and her friends had come into Manhattan to see a movie and had been caught up in the orange netting used to capture protestors. The police did not sort protestors from non-protestors, apparently. If you were there when the fencing went up, you were SOL.

The girl spent a couple of days in custody. Shameful (assuming, as I do, that it is true).

Here’s simple for you: the judge ordered the city to release the protesters. There was a period after that sentence, did you notice it? No conditions, no ifs, no whens.

It kind of makes the point monstro…there were so many arrests that it took long periods of time to sort through them all. No conspiricy theory needed. Or were the police supposed to be psykic or something and just KNOW who was a protestor violating the law and who was merely a bystander who was in the wrong place at the wrong time?? Perhaps the protesters could have helped out with some convient ‘Lawful’ and ‘Unlawful’ tee shirts. Or perhaps the police should have just stood by and let these folks do whatever they wanted?

I think people are being fairly unreasonable about all this…these folks were breaking the law, even if it was only distrubing the peace. There were so MANY of them that its simply unreasonable to expect the police to have dealt with them rapidly…unless you were just going to merely let them go with no processing at all. In which case, what was the point in arresting them??

FWIW I believe something like that could easily happen in such a situation. Its hardly shameful though unless you expect some kind of god like powers from the police…there were literally hundreds of thousands of protesters out there.


Yes, I noticed that. Did you notice that judges aren’t god and can’t order such things with impunity (at least I don’t THINK they are or that they can)? I also noticed the city is looking into their legal options for bringing action against this judge and getting the fines removed because they were unlawful. I guess we’ll see how that plays out, but my guess is the fines will be dropped in the end.

Let me ask you something TYM…doesn’t it seem silly to you to arrest people for disturbing the peace (or whatever else they were arrested for) and then to simply turn them loose without even processing them? Why arrest them in the first place if thats the case?

Perhaps I’m not understanding our legal system (I’m no lawyer to say the least), but just because a judge ordered this does that mean the city HAS to comply…and comply right now? What if the order was illegal, or had some other legal problem with it? Perhaps someone who knows something about the law could chime in and set the record straight on this.


Unless the whole island of Manhattan was under a curfew, there is no reason to arrest people for simply standing on the street. Which is EXACTLY what the police did by throwing nets around people and scooping them up.

The protesters were not blend-in-the-crowd types. They were holding up signs. They were shouting and yelling. They were, in a word, protesting. Why not arrest people who were actually doing these things? Why arrest someone for simply being in the presence of someone who was doing this? Surely the police are trained to be discriminating when they arrest people.

The people who were arrested were not simply held up until they could be processed. They were punished! They were forced to spend the night (or multiple nights) in crowded conditions, sleeping on floors that were filthy and of questionable safety. It was more than a minor inconvenience.

Why couldn’t the police have simply used judgement? An unlawful demonstration can be peaceful and harmless, just as easy as a lawful one can escalate into violence. Why not take a watch-and-see approach before wrestling people away to jail?

Call me a bleeding heart, but I fail to see what the big deal is with the protest demonstrations. Most of them were harmless. And what’s wrong with breaking up large crowds and issuing citations?

Excuse me, but millions of people live and work in NYC. The police is there to protect them, not arrest them as they conduct business as usual. If I want to go to see a movie, I should not have to worry about spending the next two days in jail simply for crossing onto the wrong street. As someone who regularly goes into the city, it easily could have been me spending the night on the floor of Pier 57. And it would have been shameful because I would have not done anything wrong. I imagine that anyone in that situation would feel the same exact way.

Arresting people blindly, just cuz you’re stressed out (boo-freakin’-hoo), is not acceptable.

I too heard that report on WNYC this morning. As I listentened, two things came to mind: (1) I seriously doubted the veracity of her claim (2) Armed gorillas on horseback with rifles and nets were out on one of their regular ‘human round-ups’.

Tell it to the judge.

He set a 5:00pm deadline. Apparently, he thinks that they shouldn’t’ve been arrested, and therefore the processing is unecessary.

Does a single judge have that kind of power?? He THINKS they shouldn’t have been arrested so turn them loose?? What if a judge THINKS that a convicted criminal should be turned loose? As I said, I’m no lawyer, and if this is really how it works here in the US then fight my ignorance by all means. I really didn’t know this.


New York apparently has a strict 24 hour “arraign or out” policy. Or law, whatever it may be. The judge was enforcing this.

Can you possibly honestly believe that a judge does not have the power to order the release of someone from jail? The next time I need a writ of habeus corpus, whom should my lawyer argue it in front of?

The law is what a judge says it is. If one does not like the answer, one may appeal to a higher judge.

This may / may not be important to the debate - I’ll be damned if I can find a cite for it - From what I’ve heard:

Any ‘out of state’ resident arrested during the protests must go before a judge prior to being released. (I guess for the obvious reason an appearance ticket would more than likely be ignored once the detainee was safely back home)

At the same time lower level judges often make calls that are wrong in retrospect, that is why we have an appeals process.

Anyways, technically speaking the executive agencies of government don’t really have to obey the judicial part of government, even legally speaking, until a writ of mandamus is issued IIRC.

It’s sort of like you can break the rules until you are called on it.

And then you can continue to break the rules for awhile yet if you work the appeals process correctly.

The fact is the police couldn’t meet the 24 hour arraignment rule because of lack of manpower. Public safety, which is the police’s area of protection, demands that we don’t start letting criminals free just because the police have been swamped by a deluge of crime.

Imagine if a man was caught red handed murdering someone, but couldn’t be arraigned for 24+ hours because of a deluge of paperwork. Sometimes public safety overrules the judiciary. There is a long history of such action in the United States and in many cases it is found completely acceptable and we all get off none the worse for wear.

For example during one of the great fires of the last century (I think it was in SF) a local general illegally tore down half the city to create firebreaks. He also without any authority arrested and detained anyone who got in his way. Sometimes the safety of the public requires quick action and you have to let the courts and legal system sort itself out afterwards.

In general government has tried to deal with such issues via laws giving immediate emergency powers to executive parts of the government. But sometimes we don’t prepare enough before hand.

And the simple fact is the office of President is extremely important to the United States, and the President (separating “the Presidency” from George Bush the man) isn’t something we can afford to wantonly risk just because a bleeding heart judge feels like doing so.

Okay, now imagine a few thousand people were exercizing their constitutional rights. Or don’t bother imagining it, because that’s what they were actually doing. What’s with this “murder” crap?

It’s not clear to me that the actions of the protestors posed a physical threat to the president.

No, I think in this case the judge’s order is final (unless and until overturned on appeal). Nothing further is necessary. New York no longer uses writs of mandamus. From the Wikipedia (

Oh, come on, stop spouting talking points. We all know full and well that the protesters were not in their designated free speech zones. What more is there to understand?

Well, gosh, when you put it that way, it’s doubleplusgood and easy to bellyfeel.

I am a lawyer but not in New York. Based on what I know about the law in general, yes, a single judge, provided he has proper jurisdiction, does have that kind of power. Legally, that is. Of course, if the police decide to ignore his order, there’s nothing he can do other than levy the specified fine, and the city almost certainly will appeal the fine and the higher courts might or might not sustain the judge’s decision. No money will change hands until a final appellate ruling is made. Meanwhile, the city almost certainly will release the prisoners, now that the convention is over. I think. Actually, I was just listening to the radio (6:30 p.m. Friday 8/3/04), and some people are still waiting for their relatives to be released. One father can’t even find out where his son is being held or anything about his case.

But in practical terms, what the judge has accomplished – and in my view it is a valuable accomplishment – is to make sure that the city’s conduct in this matter will not simply be swept under the rug. It’s not going to go away. The validity of the fine will have to be litigated and that will keep this business in the courts, and in the public eye, for some months to come. It will affect the election (not that Bush had any chance of taking New York anyway). And that’s not even taking account of civil suits some of the arrested parties almost certainly will file.

I’d bet convicted criminals fall under a different set of rules.

I honestly didn’t know that they could, no. As I said, I’m no lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. To me, it seems incredible that a judge has this kind of power, though as you said, he was enforcing an existing statute appearently (the 24hr “arraign or out” policy you mentioned). It seems though that there were extenuating circumstances for WHY things were going more than 24hrs (i.e. the massive number of arrests), however I don’t know enough about the law to really understand how all this plays out. You shouldn’t be that surprised…not like I’m the only one ignorant of some of the more esoteric aspects of the law.

Thanks btw BrainGlutton…I really didn’t know this. It sort of puts it all in perspective.