Sinapi Law and ACLU Settle First Amendment Suit With City of Providence Over Political Protest

The ACLU of Rhode Island today announced the favorable settlement of a federal freedom of speech lawsuit against the Providence Police Department.

The lawsuit, filed by ACLU cooperating attorney Richard A. Sinapi on behalf of Shannah Kurland and Gladys Gould, stemmed from police actions outside the Roger Williams Park Casino in September 2013. Over 200 people, including Kurland and Gould, gathered in the park outside the Casino with signs to protest Raimondo’s controversial pension reform activities as General Treasurer. During the protest, the plaintiffs (along with the other demonstrators) were ordered by Providence police to move farther and farther away from the Casino, making it much more difficult for them to have their message seen and heard by individuals attending the event. Gould reluctantly moved each time, but when Kurland refused to move to the farthest location, she was arrested for disorderly conduct, a charge that was ultimately dismissed.

In addition to $13,000 monetary payment to each plaintiff, the settlement agreement filed provides that the City will pay $74,000 in attorneys’ fees.

According to Attorney Sinapi, “this agreement is a recognition that Gladys and Shannah’s rights to move freely about and engage in First Amendment free expression activities in a public place were violated. In the past, the failure of City and the Providence Police Department to acknowledge and take appropriate action to prevent infringement of free expression activities by police has subjected the City to numerous lawsuits that have cost taxpayers nearly $250,000 over the past several years in settlements alone—not to mention the costs of defense. Hopefully, going forward, the rights of people to peaceably move about, assemble, and engage in First Amendment activities on public streets, sidewalks, and parks will be respected and protected.”

You can read the ACLU’s full press release here.

Sinapi Law Associates, Ltd. has a proven track record over a period of nearly 40 years of protecting and vindicating the civil rights and liberties of individuals. You can learn more about our civil rights practice here. If you believe your civil rights may have been violated, you can submit a request for a free case evaluation here.

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