Protestors Eye Philly, ACLU Announces Lawsuit on Their Behalf

By Bruce Sullivan | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

( - Even as the ACLU announced a class action civil rights lawsuit Thursday on behalf of protestors who demonstrated last April at the World Bank in Washington, many of the same activists were gearing up to march on the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia next week.

"There could be some serious protesting in Philadelphia; I hope the police show some restraint," said Kadd Stevens, who is one of the litigants represented by the American Civil Liberties Union's suit against the District of Columbia and federal government.

The lawsuit claims that D.C police used excessive force against non-violent demonstrators and arrested hundreds of protestors who were criticizing the World Bank and International Monetary Fund's global policies. An ACLU spokesman said the suit names about 15 plaintiffs, representing "a class of nearly 700 people suing for damages for false arrest, and more generally represent all the people who were demonstrating at the World Bank/IMF weekend, whose First Amendment rights were violated."

However, some civil rights experts believe the District of Columbia police force handled the World Bank protestors gently compared to the way some other demonstrators have been treated.

"I think they were treated very well. When you look at the way some other countries treat people, or some other past protests in American history, I think the [D.C.] police were very much using kid gloves," said David Almasi of the National Center for Public Policy Research.

One of those protests was at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, where more than 15,000 people demonstrated and had a bloody confrontation with Mayor Richard Daley's police force. Organizers of the protests at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia this year are hoping to top that turnout, with the largest protest at a presidential convention ever.

Political demonstrations in some Asian and European countries can involve much more brutal police tactics than what demonstrators in Washington encountered, said Almasi, particularly in countries such as Korea and France.

"It's a lot more violent, and there's violence on the part of the protestors and there's violence on the part of the police," said Almasi. "I think here in America, you have more violence due to the actions of the protestors than you do by the police."