Saying the city had created its "own little Guantanamo on the Hudson" during the Republican National Convention, a lawyer Monday filed a lawsuit on behalf of nearly 2,000 people arrested at demonstrations.
The federal lawsuit claims protesters and bystanders alike were rounded up in mass arrests without cause; were kept without access to their lawyers or families at an old bus depot used as a temporary detention center; and were exposed for days to cruel and inhuman conditions.
The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages.
"All that was missing were the orange jumpsuits," lawyer Jonathan C. Moore said. "Under the guise of terrorism and the fear of terrorism, we are all losing our rights."
Deputy Police Commissioner Paul J. Browne said the allegations were false and denied conditions were hazardous, noting police installed lights, ventilation, sanitary facilities and other amenities.
Among bystanders arrested were a 15-year-old diabetic girl on her way to a movie and a former vice president of Morgan Stanley who was riding her bicycle.
Barbara Friedman, who had encouraged her 16-year-old daughter's participation in a peaceful protest, said she could not locate her for two days. "I just see all our civil liberties slipping away," Friedman said. "It's very, very frightening."
Moore said the treatment of those arrested violated "a bedrock principle of our democracy that the police cannot simply sweep the streets because they find protest inconvenient or embarrassing."
"They created their own little `Guantanamo on the Hudson' equipped with chain-link fences and razor wire and guards armed with machine guns escorting prisoners everywhere," he said.
Brown contended that all weapons were banned. "In fact, the police commissioner surrendered his own gun before visiting the facility," Browne said in a statement.