When Pittsburgh police ordered an Oakland crowd to disperse hours after the Sept. 25 end of the G-20 summit and then arrested scores of people, they marched down a path that has led other cities into lawsuits and seven-figure settlements.
Witold “Vic” Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said his group is “carefully considering” litigation over the mass arrests in Oakland amid allegations that police violated people’s constitutional rights.
“The police cannot simply designate a peaceful gathering as illegal and tell everybody to disperse. That’s the hallmark of totalitarianism,” Mr. Walczak said. “The most problematic part of both nights [Thursday, Sept. 24 and Friday, Sept. 25] is the declaration of an unlawful assembly under extremely questionable circumstances.”
Any suits contesting the Oakland arrests will make Pittsburgh the latest test case in the ongoing struggle between cities balancing constitutional rights with protecting life, limb and property during mass gatherings.